The Associated Press obit said, "Hayes was born in 1942 in a tin shack in Covington, Tenn., about 40 miles north of Memphis. He was raised by his maternal grandparents after his mother died and his father took off when he was 1 1/2. The family moved to Memphis when he was 6.
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.''
He held down various low-paying jobs, including shining shoes on the legendary Beale Street in Memphis. He also played gigs in rural Southern juke joints where at times he had to hit the floor because someone began shooting."
Of course, he overcame.
"In the early 1970s, Hayes laid the groundwork for disco, for what became known as urban-contemporary music and for romantic crooners like Barry White. And he was 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.''
The album ''Hot Buttered Soul'' made Hayes a star in 1969. His shaven head, gold chains and sunglasses gave him a compelling visual image.
''Hot Buttered Soul'' was groundbreaking in several ways: He sang in a ''cool'' style unlike the usual histrionics of big-time soul singers. He prefaced the song with ''raps,'' and the numbers ran longer than three minutes with lush arrangements.
Next came ''Theme From Shaft,'' a No. 1 hit in 1971 from the film ''Shaft'' starring Richard Roundtree.
''That was like the shot heard round the world,'' Hayes said in the 1999 interview."
And there was also a tune about a gentleman named John Shaft, if we remember correctly.