MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Isaac Hayes, the baldheaded, baritone-voiced soul crooner who laid the groundwork for disco and whose “Theme From Shaft” won both Academy and Grammy awards, died Sunday after he collapsed near a treadmill, authorities said. He was 65.
Hayes was pronounced dead at Baptist East Hospital in Memphis an hour after he was found by a family member, the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office said. The cause of death was not immediately known.
In his spoken-word introductions and interludes, Hayes was essentially rapping before there was rap. His career hit another high in 1997 when he became the voice of Chef, the sensible school cook and devoted ladies’ man on the animated TV show “South Park.”
Hayes was about to begin work on a new album for Stax, the soul record label he helped build.
The album “Hot Buttered Soul” made Hayes a star in 1969. Next came “Theme From Shaft,” a No. 1 hit in 1971 from the film “Shaft” starring Richard Roundtree. He won an Academy Award for the song and was nominated for another one for the score. The song and score also won him two Grammys.
Hayes was elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002.
Hayes was born in 1942 in a tin shack in Covington, Tenn., about 40 miles north of Memphis. He was raised by his maternal grandparents after his mother died and his father took off when he was 1½.
Hayes wanted to be a doctor but got redirected when he won a talent contest in ninth grade by singing Nat King Cole’s “Looking Back.”