Today is the 60th birthday of soul innovator Isaac Hayes, who was born in Covington,
Tenn. After his parents died when he was an infant, Hayes was raised by his
grandparents. He sang at his church as a child and played piano, organ and
saxophone. In his teens, Hayes moved to Memphis, Tenn., where he played at clubs
with a series of bands such as Sir Isaac and the Doo-Dads and the Teen Tones. He
began recording singles for small labels in 1962 and a few years later he became the
saxophonist for the Mar-Keys.
While with this group, Hayes began working at Stax-Volt Records, which hired him to
play on Otis Redding sessions in 1964. Shortly after, Hayes played keyboards with the
Stax house band and began writing songs with David Porter. Together they wrote such
hits as "Soul Man" for Sam and Dave and "I Had a Dream" for Johnnie Taylor.
Hayes began recording albums for Stax in 1967 but became famous as a performer with
1969's four-song Hot Buttered Soul. Despite very lengthy tracks, the album went
to #8 on Billboard's pop albums chart. Two years later, Hayes reached a
commercial peak with his score for the hit film "Shaft." The double-LP soundtrack won
an Oscar. Hayes' single, "The Theme from 'Shaft,' " became an instant classic with its
propulsive hi-hats, wah-wah guitars and spoken lyrics. The #1 song won Hayes a
Grammy and made him globally recognizable as the large, bald figure with sunglasses
and gold jewelry who produced sensual, elaborately arranged soul music.
Also in 1971, Hayes released the acclaimed Black Moses. In 1974, he wrote
more soundtracks and began acting in films such as "Truck Turner." But during the
following year, Hayes and Stax began a royalty battle, during which he founded his own
label, Hot Buttered Soul. Ensuing albums, such as 1975's Chocolate Chip,
achieved gold-record status (more than 500,000 copies sold), but Hayes was less of a
sensation than in previous years and eventually filed for bankruptcy in 1976.
In 1977, he recorded the double album A Man and a Woman with soul/pop
songstress Dionne Warwick. Hayes revived his career with the hits "Zeke the Freak,"
"Don't Let Go" and "Do You Wanna Make Love." In 1979, Hayes collaborated with soul
singer Millie Jackson on Royal Rappin's and continued acting in films such as
"Escape From New York" (1981).
Hayes took a hiatus from the music business following 1981's Lifetime
Thing. He returned in 1986 with the R&B hit "Ike's Rap" and the album U Turn.
But he soon put music aside again to refocus on acting. At the moment, Hayes
contributes the voice of Chef on the animated TV hit "South Park."
With the explosion of hip-hop in the '90s, Hayes has been
widely cited as a major musical influence by many of today's rappers. In 1995, he
released Branded and the instrumental Raw &
In addition to his acting and humanitarian efforts, he is also a member of the Royal family
of Noyami Mantse of the Kabiawe Division of the Ada Traditional Area in Ghana, where
he is an African king under the name Nene Katey Ocansey I. He is also an honorary
Hayes was in the news this year when he was ordered by a Georgia judge to repay
$89,000 that he borrowed from an Atlanta woman between 1979-92.
In referring to his 1995 instrumental album, Hayes said, "Raw & Refined is the
right title. [It's] a damn accurate description of me."
Other birthdays: Mike Elliot (Foundations), 69; Pat MacDonald (Timbuk 3), 46; and
Randy DeBarge (DeBarge), 40.