Isaac Lee Hayes, Jr. (August 20, 1942 – August 10, 2008) was an American soul singer, songwriter, actor, producer, and voice artist. Hayes was one of the creative forces behind the southern soul music label Stax Records, where he served both as an in-house songwriter and as a session musician and record producer, teaming with his partner David Porter during the mid-1960s. Hayes and Porter, along with Bill Withers, the Sherman Brothers, Steve Cropper, and John Fogerty were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2005 in recognition of writing scores of notable songs for themselves, the duo Sam & Dave, Carla Thomas, and others. Hayes is also a 2002 inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
The hit song "Soul Man", written by Hayes and Porter and first performed by Sam & Dave, has been recognized as one of the most influential songs of the past 50 years by the Grammy Hall of Fame. It was also honored by The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, by Rolling Stone magazine, and by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) as one of the Songs of the Century. During the late 1960s, Hayes also began a career as a recording artist. He had several successful soul albums such as Hot Buttered Soul (1969) and Black Moses (1971). In addition to his work in popular music, he worked as a composer of musical scores for motion pictures.
He was well known for his musical score for the film Shaft (1971). For the "Theme from Shaft", he was awarded the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1972. He became the third African-American, after Sidney Poitier and Hattie McDaniel, to win an Academy Award in any competitive field covered by Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. He also won two Grammy Awards for that same year. Later, he was given his third Grammy for his music album Black Moses.
In recognition of his humanitarian work there Hayes was crowned honorary king of the Ada, Ghana region in 1992. He acted in motion pictures and television, such as in the movies Truck Turner and I'm Gonna Git You Sucka, and as Gandolf "Gandy" Fitch in the TV series The Rockford Files (1974–1980). From 1997 to 2006, he voiced the character Chef on the animated TV series South Park. His influences were Percy Mayfield, Big Joe Turner, James Brown, Jerry Butler, Sam Cooke, Fats Domino, Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding, and psychedelic soul groups like The Chambers Brothers and Sly and the Family Stone.
On August 5, 2003, Hayes was honored as a BMI Icon at the 2003 BMI Urban Awards for his enduring influence on generations of music makers. Throughout his songwriting career, Hayes received five BMI R&B Awards, two BMI Pop Awards, two BMI Urban Awards and six Million-Air citations. As of 2008, his songs generated more than 12 million performances. He also voiced the character of Chef in South Park for 10 seasons.