Remembering a Soul icon
Today, music enthusiasts across the nation are remembering the work of Southern-born soul legend Isaac Hayes, who was found dead in his home in Memphis, Tennessee on Sunday. He was 65.
Hayes, known as a pioneering singer, songwriter and musician, was the first black composer to win the Oscar for best original song for the theme from "Shaft." Often called the Black Moses, Hayes was known for his deep bass-baritone and eclectic music stylings that had a lasting impact on '70s soul.
Born in 1942 in a tin shack in Covington, Tennessee, Hayes' was raised by his maternal grandparents after his mother died. The family moved to Memphis when he was 6 and he began singing in church at the age of five.
Hayes early career exemplifies the life of the Southern soul singer. Hayes worked in cotton fields while going to school, and as the AP reported, Hayes held down "various low-paying jobs, including shining shoes on the legendary Beale Street in Memphis. He also played gigs in rural Southern juke joints where at times he had to hit the floor because someone began shooting."
Hayes spent much of the 1960s and into the '70s with the legendary Memphis R&B label, Stax Records, working with some of Rhythm and Blues' biggest names. As the New York Times reported:
[Hayes] began playing in local bands, and by early 1964, when he was 21, he was working as a backup musician for Stax. His first session was with Otis Redding.
Soon he began writing songs with David Porter, and their music - numbers like "Soul Man" and "Hold On, I'm Comin" for Sam and Dave, and "B-A-B-Y" for Carla Thomas - came to embody the Stax aesthetic. It was tight, catchy pop, but full of sweat and grit, a proudly unpolished Southern alternative to Motown.
In 2002, Hayes was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and moved back home to Memphis.
"He was a real powerhouse in music," Don Cornelius, the founder of the "Soul Train" TV series, told Reuters. "He took black music to another level, made it more classic."