Isaac Hayes had Hot-Buttered Soul, Psychedelic Funk and Love for Memphis

You may have known Isaac Hayes for his music or films. Or by his nicknames: Black Moses, Shaft or Chef. But there was more to this man than his gold chains and funky style. Join us on a soulful pilgrimage into the heart of the man who influenced history – through vinyl.

Isaac, who was singing by the age of five, taught himself piano, flute, organ and sax. He spent his teenage years working at a meat packing plant by day but lived to perform at clubs and juke joints by night. By the 60s, Isaac would influence the world through his music.

As the in-house songwriter at Stax Records, Isaac teamed up with David Porter and together they produced hit after hit for the likes of Otis Redding, Johnnie Taylor, The Bar-Kays and Booker T. Jones of Booker T. & the M.G.s – virtually the entire Stax roster – creating what would be coined the Memphis Sound. That unique sound transformed popular music and influenced everyone from Elvis Presley and Ray Charles to the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. You can still hear the results of his genius through hits like “Hold On, I’m Coming,” “Soul Man,” “Shaft,” and “I Thank You.” To say that Isaac Hayes was prolific would be an understatement. With the exception of Book T. and the M.G.s, Isaac worked on more Stax sessions and tracks than any other musician.

Isaac was a shining star in the 70s. “Shaft” was a blockbuster at the theaters and #1 on the airwaves. What better measure of success than a gold-plated, fur-lined, customized 1972 Cadillac Eldorado which is on display today at the Stax Museum of American Soul Music along with costumes, records and other memorabilia.

The Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum pays tribute to Isaac and other Stax musicians for their musical campaign for civil rights. Isaac, who had marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was scheduled to meet with him the very day Dr. King died. “It affected me for a whole year,” Hayes told Rob Bowman in Soulsville U.S.A.: The Story of Stax Records. Relive the full story of the Civil Rights movement at the National Civil Rights Museum located in the Lorraine Motel in downtown Memphis.

Isaac recorded and a grateful world responded. During his lifetime, Isaac released over 20 albums, won three Grammys, and was inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 2002 and the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2005. He was the third African-American (after Sidney Poitier and Hattie McDaniel) to win an academy award.

The 80s saw a career shift as Isaac’s interest went to films and television. Who could ever forget his deep, velvety voice as the elementary-school lunchroom cook, the Chef, who was known to break out in songs such as “Chocolate Salty Balls” on the hit-show South Park?

For as much as he was given, he gave in return. Together with friend, Lisa Marie Presley, Isaac was there for the children of Memphis and established an after-school program to teach reading, writing, and study skills. His generosity also helped form the Isaac Hayes Foundation to help a vulnerable population realize their full potential in areas of health care, economic and human development. Today, many future musicians benefit from his contributions to the Stax Academy.

Memphis was certainly dear to Isaac’s hot-buttered soul. Come play around in Memphis to see why.