Hayes, 65, was renowned for his characteristic baritone voice and mastery of several instruments, including the saxophone and the piano.
Born August 20, 1942 in Covington, Tennessee, Hayes' was raised by his maternal grandparents after his mother died.
The family moved to Memphis when he was 6 and he began singing in church at the age of five.
"When I finished, the house was on its feet, man, and I was a hit ... So I started pursuing music big time," Hayes said on his official website.
In 1962, after graduating from high school and winning seven college scholarships for vocal music, Hayes turned down higher education to launch his music career with Stax Records.
There he worked with some of Rhythm and Blues' biggest names at the time, including Sam & Dave, Otis Redding and Booker T & the MGs.
In 1968, Hayes released his debut album, the poor-selling "Presenting Isaac Hayes".
The following year, Hayes realised his landmark album "Hot Buttered Soul" which stayed on the pop chart for 81 weeks, forcing the music industry, for the first time, to make soul music an album art form.
At the time of the emerging Black Power movement and with the death of Martin Luther King, Hayes transformed his image into a revolutionary statement, dressing in black leather, draping his bare chest in rows of gold chains and shaving his head completely.
Along with Al Green, James Brown and Stevie Wonder, Hayes became one of the dominant black artists in the early 1970s.
"He was a real powerhouse in music," Don Cornelius, the founder of the "Soul Train" TV series said.
"He took black music to another level, made it more classic."
|In 2002, Hayes was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame [Gallo/Getty]
After his career-defining soundtrack for the 1971 movie "Shaft," for which Hayes picked up an Oscar, three Grammy awards, a Golden Globe award, and an Edison award, Europe's highest music honour, Hayes began acting in scores of movies and television series.
His guest star appearances included TV shows, "The Rockford Files" and "Miami Vice." He also appeared in feature films such as "Escape from New York" and "Hustle & Flow".
Musically, he returned to the charts in 1986 with a new record deal with Columbia and a new album, "U-Turn".
In 1997 he began voicing the role of Chef in the animated Comedy Central cable series "South Park".
However, he quit the show in 2006, apparently because he disagreed with its attacks on Scientology, a religion he followed since the mid 1990s.
Change of direction
During a 1991 trip with Barry White to Africa, Hayes became fascinated with his African roots, and began his philanthropic devotion to spreading the message that education was the key to freedom.
He started the Isaac Hayes Foundation in 1993 and after being crowned king of a small community in Ghana, he returned in 2000 to open an education centre that provides literacy, computer technology and health courses.
In 2002, Hayes was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and moved back home to Memphis, Tennessee, where he pursed business interests that flowered into two restaurants, a best-selling cookbook and top secret barbecue sauces.
He wrote a self-help book, "The Way to Happiness".
"At the end of the day, we are responsible for our own lives," he said in one interview.
"If anything happens to us, don't blame somebody else. Backtrack and look at what you did to contribute to that. You also contribute to your successes. Once you learn that, you're on your way."
Hayes was married four times and fathered 12 children, according to Us magazine.
He is survived by his current wife Adjowa, whom he married in 2005 and with whom he had one child.