STAX Records icon, southern soul pioneer
Isaac Hayes, best known for revolutionizing and broadening the direction of soul music, was born on a farm in Covington, Tennessee, in 1942. Raised by his grandparents, he played saxophone and piano growing up, and after high school played in various jazz bands. Eventually he landed at Stax Records as a sessions pianist for Otis Redding.
Hayes was then tapped to play keyboards in the Stax house band, and established a partnership with songwriter David Porter. Their collaboration at Stax, which was known for turning out some of the era's most groundbreaking soul music, would become one of the most successful songwriting partnerships of the sixties.
Under the name of the Soul Children, the Hayes-Porter duo composed more than 200 songs, reeling off a string of hits for Stax luminaries like Sam & Dave (“When Something is Wrong With My Baby,” “Soul Man,” “I Thank You,” and “Hold On, I’m Comin?), Carla Thomas (“B-A-B-Y”) and Johnnie Taylor (“I Got to Love Somebody’s Baby,” “I Had a Dream”).
The chart-topping "Soul Man" not only won a GRAMMY in 1968, it was also later honored by the GRAMMY Hall of Fame for being one of the most influential songs of the past 50 years. "Soul Man" was also recognized by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) as one of the Songs of the Century.
As an individual artist, Hayes rose to fame in 1969 after releasing his landmark album Hot Buttered Soul, which is known as a groundbreaking release that helped redefine the genre of soul music and help influence later styles such as disco and hip-hop. Hayes went on to become the first African-American composer to win a 1972 Oscar for "Best Original Song" for his soundtrack to the film Shaft, the theme song of which became a number one hit. Shaft's soundtrack also earned an Oscar for Best Original Music Score.
Hayes was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002. He has received five BMI R&B Awards, two BMI Pop Awards, two BMI Urban Awards and six Million-Air citations. He was honored as a BMI Icon in 2003 "for his enduring influence on generations of music makers."
The work of David Porter and Isaac Hayes is celebrated as part of the musical heritage memorialized at Soulsville, the Museum of American Soul Music, on the original site of Stax Records in Memphis. Hayes died in August 2008 at his Memphis home. He was 65 years old and his songs had generated more than 12 million performances in his lifetime. Phil Bredesen, then the Tennessee governor, issued a Proclamation shortly after his death honoring Hayes and his contribution to the state of Tennessee and the entire nation. In 2010, a stretch of I-40 in Tennessee was renamed the Isaac Hayes Memorial Highway.