A Lifelong Activist, He Was Also A Famous Singer-Songwriter

isaac hayes sitting at a piano and playing
Via Flickr
Briona Lamback
August 15, 2022

Born in Covington, Tennessee, singer-songwriter Isaac Hayes grew up poor. Poverty provided Hayes with a unique understanding of America's racism early-on. 

While he was softly-crooning through Black folks’ stereos during the 60s and 70s, he was also fighting for Black liberation!

Hayes registered Southern Black voters, advocated for Black leadership at his record label, and co-founded the Black Knights – an organization that protested police brutality, Jim Crow, and housing discrimination in Memphis. 

Hayes also spent time in Ghana and funded a literacy organization. Ultimately, he was crowned an honorary King of Ghana’s Ada District in 1992.

When MLK was assassinated, Hayes publicly shared how this radicalized his spirit. He turned his pain into velvety tunes on ‘Hot Buttered Soul’ that exuded the inherent richness of Blackness. 

The record went on to sell one million copies to Black customers alone.

In 1971, Hayes composed the musical score for the Blaxploitation film, Shaft. The melodic funk tune won Hayes an award and contributed to the film's popularity.

Throughout his career as a singer-songwriter, actor, and humanitarian, Hayes expressed his love for Blackness and belief in Black Power.

Hayes work inspired numerous Black artists. He was empowering, resilient, and beautiful all at once – just as our people have always been.

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