In his lifetime, Isaac Hayes was married multiple times to four beautiful women. Meet the late singer-songwriter’s wives, Dancy Hayes, Emily Ruth Watson, Mignon Harley, and Adjowa Hayes.
American singer-songwriter Isaac Hayes was born on August 20, 1942, in Covington, Tennessee. He was the second child of Isaac Sr. and Eula Hayes but was raised by his grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Willie Wade Sr.
Isaac came from a poor background and grew up picking cotton in his birthplace. When he was five years old, he started singing at his local school and taught himself how to play the piano, saxophone, flute, and Hammond organ flute.
He did not complete his high school education, but his teachers encouraged him to get his diploma, which he did at 21. After completing his diploma, he was offered multiple music scholarships from universities and colleges.
However, he turned them down so he could provide for his family by working at a meat-packing plant in Memphis. At night, he played at nightclubs and juke joints in Memphis and northern Mississippi.
Isaac got his first professional gig in the late 1950s as a singer at Curry’s Club in North Memphis. In the early 1960s, he started his recording career.
In the early days of his musical career, he worked with some Memphis Sound musical luminaries like Otis Redding, Johnnie Taylor, The Bar-Kays, and Booker T. Jones.
Isaac had a successful career and was known as a multi-talented composer, singer, and arranger. In addition, he was exceptionally good at playing the saxophone, vibraphone, and piano.
Isaac was one of the forces behind the creation of the Southern Soul music label Stax Records.
In 1971, he won an Oscar for Best Original Song for a Motion Picture for “The Theme from Shaft” from the film “Shaft.” He was also nominated for Best Original Score for “Shaft.”
At the 1972 Oscar ceremony, Isaac performed “The Theme From Shaft” while clad in a tremendous amount of gold. He received a standing ovation for his performance, which remains one of TV’s most memorable moments.
Isaac was one of the forces behind the creation of the Southern Soul music label Stax Records. At the label, he was the in-house songwriter, session musician, and record producer.
He and David Porter teamed up to write multiple songs for themselves, musical duo, Sam & Dave, Carla Thomas, and many more.
Isaac and Porter were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2005 in recognition of their songwriting exploits. Isaac was also inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002. He is also a three-time Grammy Award winner.
A family member found him unresponsive near a treadmill.
Besides his musical greatness, Isaac starred in several movies like “Truck Turner” and “I’m Gonna Git You Sucka.” He also portrayed Gandolf “Gandy” Fitch in the television series “The Rockford Files.” He voiced Chef in the Comedy Central series “South Park.”
He was also known for his charitable work and was crowned the honorary king of the Ada region in Ghana in honor of his humanitarian work in the community.
On August 10, 2008, Isaac was found dead at his home. A family member found him unresponsive near a treadmill. He was taken to Baptist East Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, where he was pronounced dead. He was 65.
Later, medical examiners listed a recurrence of stroke as the cause of his death as he had suffered a stroke in 2006. He was buried at Memorial Park Cemetery and was survived by 12 children.
Isaac was married four times in his lifetime to four beautiful women. He married for the first time in 1960 to Dancy Hayes. However, their marriage ended in divorce. Isaac and Dancy shared two children, Felicia and Veronica.
On November 24, 1965, Isaac married for the second time to Emily Ruth Watson. However, their union also ended in divorce in 1972. Isaac shared three children with Watson, namely, Vincent Eric Hayes, Melanie Mia Hayes, and Nicole A. Hayes.
Following their divorce, Watson was granted custody of their kids and took him to court for late payments of alimony and child support.
Isaac married Mignon Harley, a bank teller, on April 18, 1973. Before tying the knot, the pair had known each other for six years. The first year of their marriage was beautiful and rosy as Harley seemed comfortable with being his wife.
She said she did not expect him to be at home all the time because of his busy schedule. Also, Harley was not suspicious of her husband’s activities because she understood the demands of his business.
In a 1973 interview with Ebony, Isaac said he told Harley he does not belong entirely to her and she had to be a very generous person, which she was. He further said they both had to make sacrifices.
The couple’s happy marriage did not last too long. In 1976, Harley filed for divorce from Isaac, citing inhumane treatment. However, she dismissed her divorce filing two days later.
Harley told Jet she was dismissing her file for divorce because it was childish, and she did it out of anger. She also said:
“I have withstood the pressures this long and I think I can continue. I love Isaac.”
Harley’s filing for divorce coincided with a period when Isaac was experiencing financial difficulties after cutting ties with Stax Records. Courts had also asked him to pay his ex-wife, Watson, alimony and child support.
Isaac and Harley were eventually forced into bankruptcy after owing over $6 million. However, the musician was able to recover financially in the years that followed.
While Isaac recovered financially, his marriage to Harley did not work out. In 1982, the couple separated. Harley filed for divorce two years after their separation, saying their marriage was irretrievably broken.
In her divorce filing, Harley sought custody of her and Isaac’s two kids, Heather and Isaac III. She also sought temporary and permanent alimony, child support, and part of his property.
In 2005, Isaac married his fourth wife, Adjowa Hayes. On April 10, 2006, she gave birth to their son, Nana Kwadjo. Isaac was 63 when Nana was born. Adjowa and Isaac remained married until he died in 2008.
In 2016, Isaac’s kids posed with his “Shaft” Oscar, which he had kept at his grandma’s house until her death. After his grandma died, he kept the award at his Memphis restaurant.
His family found an appropriate place to showcase the Oscar Isaac won. Since 2011, they have displayed it at the Stax Museum of American Soul in Memphis.
Heather said her dad’s ability to take his grandma to the Oscars and win the award was life-changing for him and meant anything was possible.
Isaac III, who manages his late father’s estate, said the iconic musician merged orchestras, organs, and bottom-heavy soul music in a great way and his Oscar was a culmination of his abilities.