Hayes was born August 20, 1942 in Covington, Tennessee. He began his career in the early 1960s as a session player, songwriter, and producer at Stax Records. Along with his partner David Porter, Hayes wrote a string of hits for the artists at Stax, including “Soul Man” which has been recognized by the Grammy Hall of Fame as one of the most influential songs of the past 50 years.
In recognition, Porter and Hayes were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2005. In the late 1960s, Hayes became a recording artist and recorded a number of successful albums such as “Hot Buttered Soul” (1969) and “Black Moses” (1971). He also composed film scores for several motion pictures. His best known work, “Shaft”, earned Hayes the 1971 Academy Award for Best Original Song, the first Academy Award won by an African American in a non-acting category. Hayes also won two Grammy Awards for “Shaft” and another Grammy for “Black Moses.”
Hayes appeared in a number of movies, including “Escape from New York” (1981), “Robin Hood: Men in Tights” (1993), and “Hustle and Flow” (2005).