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Isaac Hayes, the baldheaded, baritone-voiced soul crooner who laid the groundwork for disco and whose "Theme From Shaft" won both Academy and Grammy awards, died Sunday afternoon after he collapsed near a treadmill, authorities said. He was 65.
Hayes was pronounced dead at Baptist East Hospital in Memphis an hour after he was found by a family member, the Shelby County Sheriff's Office said. The cause of death was not immediately known.
With his muscular build, shiny head and sunglasses, Hayes cut a striking figure at a time when most of his contemporaries were sporting Afros. His music, which came to be known as urban-contemporary, paved the way for disco as well as romantic crooners like Barry White.
And in his spoken-word introductions and interludes, Hayes was essentially rapping before there was rap. His career hit another high in 1997 when he became the voice of Chef, the sensible school cook and devoted ladies man on the animated TV show "South Park."