Isaac Hayes, the funk and soul musician who won an Oscar for composing the theme to the 1971 blaxploitation classic Shaft, has passed away this afternoon at his home in Mephis, Tennessee. He was 65.
According to a spokesperson for the Shelby County Sheriff’s Department stated that Hayes was found unconscious by relatives who summoned paramedics. Rushed to a hospital, Hayes was pronounced dead at 2 pm.
A self-taught musician, Hayes was hired as a pianist by the Tennessee-based Stax Records in 1964. Throughout the rest of the decade, he helped to define the label’s distinctive soul sound.
Following the release of his platinum selling album Hot Buttered Soul in 1969, Hayes was approached to pen the soundtrack for Shaft, a new type of action movie, one that would appeal more towards a black audience. Hayes composed a new type of movie score, drawing on the funk and soul elements he worked with at Stax. Asking “Who’s the black private dick who’s down with all the chicks?” and backed by a catchy, repeating bass line, funky wah-wah guitar and lush symphonic string arrangements, Hayes’ “Theme From Shaft” not only won an Academy Award, but earned itself a place in pop culture history.
Scoring the blaxploitation films Tough Guys and Truck Turner (both 1974) gave Hayes his entrance into acting, with him taking starring roles in both films. He would later parody his blaxploitation carreer in the 1988 comedy I’m Gonna Git You Sucka!.
Although he primarily concentrated on his music, Hayes would continue to smaller acting roles, appearing in such films as CB4, Posse, Robin Hood: Men In Tights (all 1993), Reindeer Games (2000) and the remake of Shaft.
Hayes also made numerous guest appearances on various television series throughout his carreer. He had a recurring role as an ex-con on the 1970s detective series The Rockford Files and won a new generation of fans when he voiced the randy elementry school cafeteria cook Chef on the Comedy Central animated series South Park.
Most recently, had finished work on the comedy film Soul Men with Bernie Mac, who passed away on Saturday.