HAIRCUT 100: Day 42, No. 42. Isaac Hayes (1942–2008): Soul man, singer/songwriter, actor, producer, voice artist, and one-time owner of the Memphis Sounds basketball team. Hayes came from a Tennessee sharecropper family; his mother died young and his father abandoned his kids, leaving them to be raised by their grandparents. Hayes supported the family by working at a meat-packing plant, while at night he played in clubs and juke joints. He became a session musician for the Memphis-based Stax Records in the early-60s, later writing a string of hit songs with David Porter, most notably ‘Soul Man’ for Sam & Dave. His own album, Hot Buttered Soul, was Stax’s biggest seller of 1969, saving the label after its partner, Atlantic, was taken over by Warner’s. It also cemented Hayes’ personal brand: sunglasses, lots of gold, and a shaven head rather than the then popular Afro. In 1971, he composed the iconic soundtrack for Shaft, winning an Academy Award for Best Original Song, becoming only the third African-American (after Sidney Poitier and Hattie McDaniel) to win an Oscar.
Hayes started acting in the 70s, playing the bounty hunter Truck Turner in the film of the same name, the Duke of New York in Escape from New York, and sending himself up something rotten in Keenen Ivory Wayans’ I’m Gonna Git You, Sucka. He was also a regular in The Rockford Files. He returned to TV in the 90s, playing himself in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Chef in South Park, a key character until Hayes left over the show’s satire of Scientology. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002. After his death following a stroke in 2008, the Tennessee General Assembly renamed a section of Interstate 40 the ‘Isaac Hayes Memorial Highway.’ He’d been married four times, and left twelve children, fourteen grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, rather proving that the legends were probably all true. ‘There’s always hurdles. So I just keep moving, just constantly redefining myself. That’s how you stay in the race.’