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Isaac Hayes Biography

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Isaac Lee Hayes (born August 20, 1942, in Covington, Tennessee) is an actor, and influential soul singer, Academy Award-winning songwriter, musician and arranger. He also voiced the character "Chef", a singing ladies' man and elementary school cook, on the animated sitcom South Park.

In 1972, Hayes won an Oscar for Best Original Song for the film Shaft. Hayes became the first African American to win an Academy Award in a non-acting category. And after Hattie McDaniel, James Baskett and Sidney Poitier became only the fourth performer of African descent to ever receive an Academy Award. He was also nominated in the Best Original Score category (for Shaft) as well.

In 1992, Hayes was crowned an honorary king of Ghana's Ada district thanks to his humanitarian deeds.

On June 9, 2005, Hayes was inducted into the Songwriters' Hall of Fame alongside Bill Withers, Steve Cropper, Robert B. Sherman, Richard M. Sherman, John Fogerty and his longtime writing partner David Porter.

Hayes was born and raised in Covington, Tennessee. His parents died when he was an infant, and he was raised by his grandparents. He began singing at the age of five at his church. Soon after, he taught himself how to play the piano, organ, and saxophone.

Hayes began his recording career in 1962, soon playing saxophone for The Mar-Keys. After writing a string of hit songs at Stax Records with songwriting partner David Porter, including "Soul Man" and "Hold On I'm Comin" for Sam and Dave, Hayes released his debut album Presenting Isaac Hayes. A moderate success, the album was recorded immediately following a wild party.

The top-selling Hot Buttered Soul (1969) was a breakthrough album, and established his image (gold jewelry, sunglasses, etc) which eventually became a template for much of the fashion of gangsta rap and similar trends in the 1980s and 90s. "Don't Let Go" was at the top of the charts in most of the US. Hayes' biggest hit was 1971's soundtrack to Shaft. The title song won an Oscar (the first for a Black composer), and clearly presaged disco. Black Moses (1971) became almost as successful.

By 1975, Hayes left Stax Records and formed his own label called Hot Buttered Soul Records. A series of unsuccessful albums led to Hayes' bankruptcy in 1976. The late 1970s saw a major comeback for Hayes, following the release of A Man and a Woman (1977, with Dionne Warwick). In spite of moderate success as a singer, Hayes' records did not sell very well.

Hayes has also forged a career as an actor in TV shows and feature films. When Shaft was being filmed, Hayes wanted the lead role, which went to Richard Roundtree; director Gordon Parks was impressed with Hot Buttered Soul where Hayes ended up scoring the film's music.

Hayes was inducted into the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame in 2002. The same year, a documentary highlighting Isaac's career and his impact on many of the Memphis artists in the 60's onwards was produced, "Only The Strong Survive".

In the 1970s and 1980s he had appeared in some TV shows, including The Rockford Files and The A-Team. He appeared as the title role in Truck Turner (1974), The Duke of New York in Escape from New York (1981), "Asneeze" in Robin Hood: Men in Tights, "Hammer" in I'm Gonna Git You Sucka (1988), and as "Jed" in Uncle Sam (1997).

In 2004, Hayes appeared in a recurring minor role as the Jaffa Tolok on the television series Stargate SG-1. The following year, he appeared in the critically acclaimed independent film Hustle & Flow.

Hayes is also an outspoken Scientologist, frequently identified by Scientology as a success story. He has called Scientology the "gateway to eternity" and "the path to happiness and total spiritual freedom."

Hayes has contributed endorsement blurbs for many Scientology books. The frontispiece page for Scientology: The Fundamentals of Thought (1997 paperback edition) quotes Hayes as saying:

By the late 1990s, he was best known as the voice of Chef on the Comedy Central series South Park. A song from the series performed by Chef, "Chocolate Salty Balls (P.S. I Love You)", received some international radio airplay in 1999. It reached Number One on the UK singles chart and also on the Irish singles chart. The track subsequently appeared on the album Chef Aid: The South Park Album in 1998.
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