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Obituaries: Stroke is suspected in soul man Hayes? death

Obituaries for Isaac Hayes, Robert Hazard, Jerry Wexler, Erik Darling, Johnny Moore, Don Helms, Lou Teicher, Chris Calloway and Lee Young.

Soul singer Isaac Hayes apparently died of a stroke, according to paperwork his physician filed.

Hayes died Aug. 10, 2008, after family members found him lying unconscious on the floor of his Memphis, Tenn. home, next to a treadmill that was still switched on. No autopsy was performed, officials said.

Hayes was about to begin work on a new album for Stax, the soul record label he helped build to legendary status. He recently finished work on the movie “Soul Men.”

“Isaac Hayes embodies everything that’s soul music,” Collin Stanback, a Stax A&R executive told The Associated Press. “When you think of soul music you think of Isaac Hayes — the expression... the sound and the creativity that goes along with it.’’

Hayes was born in 1942 in a tin shack in Covington, Tenn. He was raised by his maternal grandparents after his mother died and his father took off. Hayes wanted to be a doctor, but got redirected when he won a talent contest in ninth grade by singing Nat King Cole’s “Looking Back.”

A self-taught musician who played piano and saxophone, Hayes shined shoes and played gigs in rural Southern juke joints before got his big break as a session musician at Stax Records for Otis Redding and others in 1964. Hayes began writing songs and established a songwriting partnership with David Porter with whom he wrote such Sam and Dave hits as “Hold On, I’m Coming” and “Soul Man.”

Hayes’ groundbreaking album, Hot Buttered Soul, made him a star in 1969. He sang in a “cool” style unlike the usual histrionics of big-time soul singers. He prefaced songs with “raps,’’ and the lushly arranged numbers ran no longer than three minutes.

The baritone-voiced crooner laid the groundwork for disco with “Theme From Shaft,” a No. 1 hit in 1971 from the film “Shaft,” which won both Academy and Grammy awards. In 1972, Hayes won another Grammy for the album Black Moses and earned a nickname he reluctantly embraced. Hayes also composed film scores for “Tough Guys” and “Truck Turner.”

Hayes appeared in several movies, including “It Could Happen to You,” “Ninth Street” and “I’m Gonna Git You, Sucka.” In 1997, he became the voice of Chef, the school cook and devoted ladies man on the animated TV show “South Park,” a role he angrily quit in 2006 after an episode mocked his religion, Scientology.


Robert Hazard, 59, a songwriter and musician from Philadelphia who wrote the 1983 Cyndi Lauper hit “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,’’ died Aug. 5, 2008, after a brief illness, according to his label, Rykodisc.

Hazard, born Robert Rimato, led Robert Hazard and the Heroes, a fixture in Philadelphia clubs through the mid-1980s. In an online posting a few years ago, he recalled how he got his big break when music journalist Kurt Loder, who was in town to review a concert, happened to stop into a bar where he was performing. That led to a 1981 article about his band in Rolling Stone, and his song “Escalator of Life’’ soon became a hit.

Recently, he played country music with a band called The Hombres. His latest album, Troubadour, was released in October.


Jerry Wexler, 91, who coined the phrase rhythm and blues and was also one of the key architects of the genre, died of heart disease at his home on Aug. 15, 2008.

Wexler revolutionized popular music with seminal, superstar-making recordings of acts such as Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles