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Isaac Hayes, the iconic Grammy and Academy Award-winning singer songwriter with the buttery soul baritone voice, died this afternoon at his Memphis home. Hayes was one of the most important musical artists of the late 1960s and early to late 1970s, ushering in the new disco movement and branding the Memphis sound with the legendary Stax Records. The New York Times.
With his muscular build, shiny head and sunglasses, Hayes cut a striking figure at a time when most of his contemporaries were sporting Afros. His music, which came to be known as urban-contemporary, paved the way for disco as well as romantic crooners like Barry White.
And 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.''
''Isaac Hayes embodies everything that's soul music,'' Collin Stanback, an A&R executive at Stax, told The Associated Press on Sunday. ''When you think of soul music you think of Isaac Hayes -- the expression ... the sound and the creativity that goes along with it.''
Hayes was currently working on a new album for Stax. The legendary singer had just finished work on a movie called Soul Men, in which he played himself, starring Samuel Jackson and Bernie Mac, who, unfortunately also died this weekend.
The YouTube below is Isaac Hayes' most excellent version of the Burt Bacharach classic "Walk On By." It's from his 1969's LP Hot Buttered Soul, one of our favorite tracks, and, perfectly embodies the layered texture of Hayes' sound. If you prefer to remember Isaac Hayes by listening to his Oscar-winning "Theme From Shaft", that is here. True disco aficionados will enjoy the YouTube of Hayes' fierce "I Can't Turn Around" from 1975's Chocolate Chip. If you're not familiar with the track, crank up the volume at the break that begins at about 2:40, turn down the lights, imagine a reverb and smoke machine, a few hundred shirtless high school and college-aged boys. This was how "house" music began at the old Warehouse and Powerplant in Chicago in the early and mid eighties.
Isaac Hayes' passing is very sad news. As a little boy growing up in the late seventies, I remember Hayes' iconic Live At The Sahara Tahoe was one of my& ; mom's fave albums. This was a double album, those were quite rare then, and it pulled out into a poster. IIRC, the liner notes were embossed on the reverse. When music was music. What memories.
Isaac Hayes was 65.