Isaac Hayes, soul legend and voice of Chef, dies at 65

Isaac Hayes, the pioneering musician and songwriter whose orchestral soul albums took the genre in a new direction and who became known to another generation as the voice of South Park's Chef, has died at the age of 65.

The performer, one of the most powerful and successful black musicians of the early Seventies, was found collapsed next to a running machine at his home near Memphis, Tennessee, yesterday afternoon.

With his shaved head and an outlandish dress sense, in sunglasses and draped in gold jewellery, Hayes became a soul music icon with his debut album, Hot Buttered Soul in 1969. His biggest hit, "The Theme From Shaft" – with its insistent cymbals and wah-wah guitars – came two years later, won an Oscar and a Grammy and laid the foundations for disco later in the decade.

But for years before he emerged as a star in his own right, Hayes had been one of the driving forces behind the success of the Stax record label, joining forces with lyricist Dave Porter to pen hits for the likes of Otis Reading and most notably Sam and Dave, for whom they wrote "Soul Man" and "Hold On! I'm A Comin".

Marc Willis, head of the Soulsville Foundation, which operates the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, said last night: "Isaac was unique and an inspiration to us all. His accomplishments as a musician are unparalleled."

"He was a real powerhouse in music," said Don Cornelius, the founder of the Soul Train TV series. "He took black music to another level, made it more classic."

Hayes was born on 20 August, 1942, in a tin shack in Covington, Tennessee, and was raised by his grandparents after being orphaned. He began singing at his local church at the age of five and taught himself to play piano and saxophone, joining Memphis-based Stax as a session musician in 1963. In all, Hayes won three Grammy awards, the last for the title track to his 1971 album Black Moses, which spawned a nickname that stayed with the star. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002.

The star was found unconscious by his wife, Adjowa, who he met in Ghana after having been named king of a region there. He first visited the royal family there in 1992 and returned repeatedly to do charity work. The couple had one son, Nano Kwadjo – Hayes's 12th child. The marriage was his fourth.

"Family members believe at this point it is a medical condition that might have led to his death," a police spokesman said, adding that Mr Hayes was being treated for "a number of medical issues". The star had a stroke in 2006, but despite sometimes noticeably shaky interview and concert performances since then, he continued to act and to tour right up to his death.

He found an unexpected second wave of popularity in later life as the voice of South Park's resident love god, Chef, and a song in character, "Chocolate Salty Balls", became a Christmas number one in the UK.

But his time on the show ended in acrimony after 11 years in 2006, when he quit saying the writers had gone too far in their now-notorious episode lampooning the Church of Scientology, to which Hayes belonged.

In his own statement, Hayes made no specific mention of the episode, in which one of the South Park fourth-graders is mistaken for the second coming of L Ron Hubbard, the religion's founder, but he slammed the show for disrespect to organised religion. "There is a place in this world for satire, but there is a time when satire ends and intolerance and bigotry towards religious beliefs of others begins," he said.

But the South Park co-creator Matt Stone retorted: "In 10 years and over 150 episodes of South Park, Isaac never had a problem with the show making fun of Christians, Muslims, Mormons or Jews. He got a sudden case of religious sensitivity when it was his religion featured on the show."

News
Clare Balding
peopleClare Balding on how women's football is shaking up sport
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Sport
premier leagueMatch report: Arsenal 1 Man United 2
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Kirk Cameron is begging his Facebook fans to give him positive reviews
film
Life and Style
Small winemakers say the restriction makes it hard to sell overseas
food + drink
News
i100
Life and Style
fashionThe Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Sport
Tony Bellew (left) and Nathan Cleverly clash at the Echo Arena in Liverpool
boxingLate surge sees Liverpudlian move into world title contention
Voices
Neil Findlay
voicesThe vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
food + drinkMeat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Reach Volunteering: Financial Trustee and Company Secretary

Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: A trustee (company d...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Shopfitter

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a successful an...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Sales Account Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Digital Sales Account Manager...

Day In a Page

Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin