The Nation’s Largest African American Video Oral History Collection Mobile search icon Mobile close search icon

Search Results

Advanced Biography Search
Mobile navigation icon Close mobile navigation icon

Isaac Hayes

Musician, actor, and entertainer, Isaac Hayes, was born Isaac Lee Hayes, Jr., on August 20, 1942, in Covington, Tennessee. When his parents died at an early age, Hayes went to live with his grandparents in Memphis. Hayes was a good student in high school, wanting to be a doctor; in the ninth grade, however, he dropped out to earn money. Hayes later enrolled in a night school from which he earned his diploma in 1962.

By the time Hayes was in his teens, he was adept at playing the piano, organ, and saxophone, as well as having spent years singing in a church choir. When he dropped out of school, Hayes immediately began performing with local R&B groups in Memphis, earning a solid reputation as a musician. Hayes recorded his first album in 1962, and by 1964, he was playing with the house band at Stax Records, one of the premier soul music recording labels in the South. After writing a number of hits in collaboration with David Porter for the group Sam & Dave, Hayes released his first solo album, Presenting Isaac Hayes, in 1967. Two years later, his breakthrough album, Hot Buttered Soul was released and Hayes became a star.

After producing a soundtrack to an experimental film by author Norman Mailer, Hayes was approached to write the musical score of Shaft in 1971; he would become the first African American to win an Oscar for Best Song. Hayes became involved in acting in the mid-1970s with an Italian film titled Uomini Duri, released in America as Three Tough Guys, and the title role in the film Truck Turner in 1974. Hayes returned to acting in 1981 with a role in Escape from New York and 1988’s I’m Gonna Git You Sucka!. The 1990s and beyond saw a resurgence of Hayes in films, playing roles in The Blues Brothers 2000, Dr. Doolitte, and a remake of Shaft; he also became the voice of “Chef” in the animated television series South Park.

Hayes had a radio program on KISS-FM and was the spokesman for the World Literacy Crusade, a part of the Scientology movement. Hayes also established the Isaac Hayes Foundation to partner with nonprofit organizations to promote human rights. While in Ada, Ghana, in 1995, as a part of the World Literacy Crusade, Hayes was crowned as a king, adopting the name of Nene Katey Ocansey I. Hayes also opened up a chain of restaurants across the country. In 2002, Hayes was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Isaac Hayes passed away on August 10, 2008, at the age of sixty-five.

Hayes was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on June 25, 2003.

Accession Number




Interview Date


Last Name


Maker Category
Middle Name


First Name


Birth City, State, Country




Favorite Season




Favorite Vacation Destination


Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State


Interview Description
Birth Date


Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City




Favorite Food

Soul Food

Death Date


Short Description

Film actor, musician and singer, and film score composer Isaac Hayes (1942 - 2008 ) was the first African American to win an Oscar for Best Song. In addition to his musical activities, Hayes was also a prolific actor and literacy advocate.

Favorite Color



Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Isaac Hayes interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Isaac Hayes's favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Isaac Hayes traces his family's roots in Africa

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Isaac Hayes discusses his family's southern heritage

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Isaac Hayes shares family stories from the U.S. Civil War

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Isaac Hayes details his mother's family history

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Isaac Hayes discusses his mother's mental illness and institutionalization

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Isaac Hayes describes his reunion with his father

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Isaac Hayes describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood in Covington, Tennessee

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Isaac Hayes recalls his early affinity for music

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Isaac Hayes discusses his early school life

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Isaac Hayes explains his decision to stay in school

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Isaac Hayes changes career plans after a successful talent show

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Isaac Hayes describes his musical career in junior high and high school

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Isaac Hayes reveals the extent of his family's poverty

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Isaac Hayes describes his early jobs

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Isaac Hayes remembers his mentor, a white employer

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Isaac Hayes chooses not to puruse criminal activities as a child

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Isaac Hayes explains how candy bars prevented him from receiving his high school diploma

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Isaac Hayes remembers his early musical gigs

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Isaac Hayes shares a humorous anecdote about his piano playing ability

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Isaac Hayes details his success as a songwriter

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Isaac Hayes describes the beginnings of his career as a vocalist

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Isaac Hayes explains his signature look

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Isaac Hayes describes the impact of Martin Luther King, Jr's assassination

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Isaac Hayes reminisces about the creation of his breakthrough album, 'Hot Buttered Soul'

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Isaac Hayes discusses the role of fashion in performance

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Isaac Hayes explains his moniker 'Black Moses'

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Isaac Hayes lists some of his discography

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Isaac Hayes considers the need for cooperation across generations

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Isaac Hayes emphasizes African American economic cooperation

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Isaac Hayes stresses culturally inclusive education

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Isaac Hayes describes being honored as a Ghanaian king

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Isaac Hayes contributes to development efforts in Africa

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Isaac Hayes describes the advantages of Scientology

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Isaac Hayes details his role in the film 'Shaft'

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Isaac Hayes recalls composing the memorable score for 'Shaft'

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Isaac Hayes reflects on his Academy Award for the score of 'Shaft'

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Isaac Hayes discusses his many film roles

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Isaac Hayes shares several of his favorite television roles

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Isaac Hayes is forced to file for bankruptcy

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Isaac Hayes describes his current business endeavors

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Isaac Hayes discusses his healthy lifestyle

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Isaac Hayes names his favorite musicians

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Isaac Hayes remembers fellow musician Barry White

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Isaac Hayes considers the black community's needs

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Isaac Hayes considers his legacy

Tape: 6 Story: 11 - Isaac Hayes describes his future plans

Tape: 6 Story: 12 - Isaac Hayes gives his philosophy on life's trials

Tape: 6 Story: 13 - Isaac Hayes describes his contribution to the world