Legendary soul artist, songwriter, musician, arranger, and actor Isaac Hayes achieved the zenith of his famed in 1971 with the release of Shaft, the score from the Gordon Parks film of the same name. The soundtrack became the first album by a solo African-American artist to peak at No. 1 on both R&B and Pop charts. As for Hayes, he took home an Academy Award, a Golden Globe Award and a Grammy Award, in addition to several others nominations. With an Oscar under his belt, he made a name for himself as the first black composer to garner such an honor. The multi-talented artist who plays the piano, vibraphone and saxophone equally well was also remembered for producing such hits as “When Something Is Wrong With My Baby” and “Soul Man,” co-written with David Porter, “I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself” (1970), “The Look Of Love” (1970), “Out The Ghetto” (1976), “Zeke The Freak” (1978), “Don’t Let Go” (1979), “Do You Wanna Make Love” (1980) before quitting in early 1980s to focus on acting. Later, in 1995, he marked his remarkable comeback with the successful vocal album Branded. For his outstanding musical career, he was inducted into the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame in 2002.
“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. Religious beliefs are sacred to people, and at all times should be respected and honored. As a civil rights activist of the past 40 years, I cannot support a show that disrespects those beliefs and practices.” Isaac Hayes on why he quit “South Park”
As an actor, Hayes is probably best known for his voice role as Chef, a singing ladies’ man and elementary school cook, in the popular animated sitcom “South Park.” He played the role from 1997 until he left the show in 2006, mentioning its ‘inappropriate mockery of religion. He is also known as The Duke of New York in the Kurt Russell vehicle Escape From New York (1981) and Arnel in the highly praised independent film Hustle & Flow (2005), from which he jointly earned a SAG nomination. Recently costarring in the indie-horror Return to Sleepaway Camp (2007), he is set to star in the action film Knight Fever (2008).
Away from acting and music, Hayes has been an outspoken Scientologist since the mid of the 1990s. He has named Scientology the “gateway to eternity” and “the path to happiness and total spiritual freedom.” Hayes has contributed support recommendations for numerous Scientology books and appeared in the Scientology film Orientation, in which he gives a tribute on how Scientology has helped him. Also a philanthropist, he was handed an honorary king of Ghana’s Ada district in 1992, for his humanitarian deeds.
As for his married life, Hayes has been married and divorced several times. He is now the husband of Adjowa Hayes, who gave birth to his son, Nana Kwadjo Hayes, in 2006. Hayes also has thirteen other children from prior relationship/marriages.
The Black Moses
Childhood and Family:
Isaac Lee Hayes was born on August 20, 1942, in Covington, Tennessee. The second child of Isaac Sr. and Eula Hayes, he was raised by his grandparents following the death of his parents. Growing up in poverty, young Isaac worked as a cotton picker in his local and dropped out of high school. Thanks to the encouragement of his ex-high school teachers, he finally earned his diploma from Manassas High in 1963, at age 21.
Isaac divorced from Mignon Harley in 1986, after they had two children. He married present wife Adjowa Hayes in May 2005. The two welcomed a son named Nana Kwadjo Hayes on April, 10, 2006. The father of 12 children, he has 14 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
The big, bold, broad-shouldered performer billed himself as The Black Moses. His family and close friends also know him as Ike.
South Park’s Chef
Isaac Hayes made his first public appearance singing in a church in his local of Covington, Tennessee when he was five. Shortly thereafter, he taught himself electronic organ, piano, flute and saxophone before relocating to Memphis to perform on the city’s club circuit as a member of such short-lived groups as Sir Isaac and the Doo-Dads, Sir Calvin and His Swinging Cats, and the Teen Tones. As a young, roving sax player, Hayes got his break when he was recruited as Floyd Newman’s sideman in 1963, which led to his long affiliation with Stax Records. Following several season performances with Otis Redding, he was tapped to play keyboards for the Stax house band, and finally set up a partnership with songwriter David Porter. Under the name Soul Children, the Hayes-Potter duo composed a series of hit songs for Stax stars like Sam & Dave (“When Something Is Wrong With My Baby,” “Soul Man,” and “Hold On, I’m Comin’”), Johnnie Taylor (“I Got to Love Somebody’s Baby” and “I Had a Dream”) and Carla Thomas (“B-A-B-Y”).
In 1967, Hayes released his debut solo album, the jazz-flavored Presenting Isaac Hayes, which did not chart highly. He followed it up with Hot Buttered Soul in 1969, which consisted of four lengthy songs including the 19-minute rendition of “By the Time I Get to Phoenix.” With the release of the album, he made his commercial breakthrough. The album’s risk-taking structure, ornate arrangements as well as sensual grooves, coupled with his imposing image (shaven skulled, sun glasses, gold jewelry, etc), made Hayes one of the most unique figures in music.
After the release of the 1970 albums The Isaac Hayes Movement, spawning the hits Jerry Butler’s “I Stand Accused” and Bacharach’s “I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself,” and To Be Continued, which had the classic hit “The Look Of Love,” Hayes was chosen to write the music and lyrics for director Gordon Parks’ Shaft (1971), a landmark detective film starring black actor Richard Roundtree. For his spectacular work, he was handed a 1972 Oscar for Best Music-Original Song, a Grammy for Best Original Score Written for a Motion Picture and a Golden Globe for Best Original Score. He also earned an Oscar nomination for Best Music, Original Dramatic Score, a Golden Globe for Best Original Song (for the song “Theme from Shaft”) as well as the BAFTA Anthony Asquith nomination for Film Music. His increasing career was further confirmed with the release of the fabulous album Black Moses, the same year, and before long, he was asked to perform in front of the cameras.
Hayes appeared in the documentary films Wattstax (1972), Save the Children and The Black Moses of Soul (both 1973) before being cast in the lead or second lead in several blaxploitation films, including playing the title role in 1974’s Truck Turner, where he also composed the soundtrack. By the mid-1970s, his association with Saxx was in danger following a conflict over royalties. It even became worse by the time he founded his own Hot Buttered Soul imprint. Although both 1975’s Chocolate Chip and 1976’s Groove-A-Thon earned gold status, his albums of that era drew significantly less notice than the previous. That fact, coupled with deprived management and business partnerships, forced Hayes to file for bankruptcy in 1976.
The following year, Hayes signed a new contract with Polydor Records and launched the double-LP A Man and a Woman, a live album of duets with Dionne Warwick that did moderately well. It was soon followed by his studio album, New Horizon (1977), which had the hit single “Out The Ghetto” and the popular track “It’s Heaven To Me.” His next successful singles, including “Zeke The Freak” (from For The Sake Of Love (1978)), “Don’t Let Go” (from the 1979 album of the same name) and “Do You Wanna Make Love” (from his 1980 collection of duets with Millie Jackson titled Royal Rappins), further proved that Hayes was back on the saddle again. He then issued And Once Again in 1980 and Lifetime Thing in 1981 before taking many years hiatus from music. Also in 1981, he could be seen playing the supporting role of The Duke of New York in John Carpenter’s Escape From New York (1981), starring Kurt Russell.
After five years, Hayes made his return with the LP U Turn (1986) and the Top Ten R&B hit “Ike’s Rap.” He emerged two years later with Love Attack before again departed music to concentrate on his acting career. Subsequently, he found himself acting in films like I’m Gonna Git You Sucka (1988), Prime Target (1991), Final Judgement (1992), Robin Hood: Men In Tights (1993), Oblivion (1994), It Could Happen to You (1994), Johnny Mnemonic (1995), Tim Reid’s Once Upon a Time When We Were Colored (1995). 1995 also saw Hayes make his return to his root with the high selling album Branded on the Virgin label. A companion album Raw and Refined, an instrumental, was released around the same time. The next year, he composed the musical score for Original Gangstas, a get-together of ‘blaxploitation’ stars like Fred Williamson, Richard Roundtree and Pam Grier. He also had a supporting role in feature film version of Flipper.
In 1997, as an actor, Hayes enjoyed big success when he landed a regular gig on the controversial TV series “South Park,” providing the voice of flabby loverman Jerome ‘Chef’ McElroy. The show became a hit and so did Hayes. After nine years, he departed the show in 2006, citing its ‘inapt ridicule’ of religion. Some critics said that Hayes, who converted to Scientology in 1995, quit after an episode titled “Trapped in the Closet,” which scorned the religion.
While working on the animated series, Hayes continued to pursue other projects. He played various roles movies like Six Ways to Sunday (1997), Blues Brothers 2000 (1998), Ninth Street (1999), Dead Dog (2000), Reindeer Games (2000), Shaft (2000, as Mr. P), Dr. Dolittle 2 (2001, voiced Possum), Dodge City: A Spaghetto Western (2004) and the critically acclaimed Sundance-premiered Hustle & Flow (2005). The latter film even brought the actor a SAG nomination for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture, sharing with Terrence Dashon Howard, Taryn Manning, Ludacris and DJ Qualls, among others. He also appeared in several television films and series, including playing the recurring role of the Jaffa Tolok in ‘Stargate SG-1” (2005-2006). On the music front, in 2003, he had three released: Instrumentals, At Wattstax, and Hot Buttered Soul.
Recently, in 2007, Hayes shared the screen with Vincent Pastore, Jonathan Tiersten and Paul DeAngelo for the independent film Return to Sleepaway Camp, written and helmed by Robert Hiltzik. He will star opposite Jeff Fahey in the action film Knight Fever (2008) for director-writer Ethan Dettenmaier. The upcoming film also stars Richard Tyson, Dallas Page and Dallas Page.
- BMI TV Music: Soul Man, 1998
- Golden Globe: Best Original Score, Shaft, 1972
- Grammy: Best Original Score Written for a Motion Picture, Shaft, 1972
- Academy Award: Best Music, Original Song, Shaft, 1972