U of M News
Isaac Hayes Had Significant Ties to the University of Memphis University News
For release: August 11, 2008

For press information, contact Curt Guenther

Isaac Hayes
Isaac Hayes
The legendary soul musician Isaac Hayes, who died Sunday at his home in Memphis at the age of 65, had been closely involved with the University of Memphis since the early 1970s, and a U of M scholarship in his honor was established in 1972, shortly after he began his friendship with the University.  That scholarship is still active, and donations can be made to the fund in memory of Hayes.

Donors should make checks payable to the University of Memphis Foundation, for the Isaac Hayes Evening of Soul Fund.  Donations should be mailed to the University of Memphis Foundation, P O Box 1000, Dept. 238, Memphis, Tennessee, 38148.

More information about donations to the University in memory of Isaac Hayes is available from Patty Bladon, director of development with the College of Communication and Fine Arts, at 901-678-4372.

Hayes became a supporter of, and later a performer in, “An Evening of Soul,” created by the Department of Theatre and Communication professor Erma Clanton.  In 1972, after he had gained national fame with his theme music for the movie “Shaft,” Hayes and his musical entourage performed with the production, and Hayes’ stipend for his work, plus the profits from the week-long event, about $10,000 altogether, were used to fund the Evening of Soul-Isaac Hayes Scholarship. 

Clanton, in whose classes Hayes often was a guest lecturer, described Hayes as “musically for real.”  “His voice was different. It took command,” she said.  “It was powerful, yet melodic.”

Clanton also said Hayes truly believed in education for young people, and she recalled him as “a wonderful, down-to-earth person, the most giving person, who helped people he didn’t even know.”

“I’ll truly miss him,” said the retired University professor.

John Bakke was another then-Memphis State University professor who knew Hayes and followed his musical career.  Bakke said Hayes supported the Evening of Soul event behind the scenes at first, and didn’t appear in the program until urged to do so by the faculty who were involved with the production. 

The “Evening of Soul” took place not too long after the University’s controversial production of the musical “Hair,” and Bakke said that those two events, especially with Hayes’ help and involvement with the “Evening of Soul” program, were important in helping bring African-Americans into musical theatre at the University.

Bakke called Hayes a pioneer of what is now known as “urban contemporary” music, adding electronic sounds and other innovations to traditional rhythm and blues music.

Bakke also said Hayes was awarded the College of Communication and Fine Arts Distinguished Achievement Award in 1994 and that he was the University’s commencement speaker in December 1998.  Bakke, who is also now retired from active teaching, recalled that Hayes was an avid follower and supporter of U of M basketball during the days of Coach Larry Finch.

The U of M Alumni Association named Hayes and his musical collaborator, David Porter, as Distinguished Friends of the University at its 2007 Distinguished Alumni Awards presentation.

Following session work for Otis Redding, Hayes was chosen to play keyboard for the Stax house band; shortly thereafter, he formed a songwriting partnership – one of the most successful of the 1960s – with Porter, during which the two men composed 200 songs for major Stax artists such as Carla Thomas, Johnny Taylor, and Sam and Dave.  Hayes-Porter creations for Sam and Dave included “When Something’s Wrong With My Baby,” “Hold On, I’m Coming,” and  “Soul Man.”

Hayes issued his debut solo album, “Presenting Isaac Hayes” in 1967, but his big break came with the 1969 release of “Hot Buttered Soul.”  Two years later, Hayes’ career skyrocketed with the release of the movie “Shaft,” for which Hayes had written the score of the same name.  That song won the writer-composer an Academy Award for Best Score, and the theme song became a chart topper.

In later years, Hayes’ distinctive voice became well known to another generation as that of the “Chef” character in television’s  “South Park.”  He lent his status as a pop culture icon to promotions for Memphis.  The son of a sharecropper, he also became known for his humanitarian work, especially with children.


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