At Monday's 17th annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony — airing tonight at 9 pm/ET on VH1 — R&B legend Isaac Hayes finally gained admittance into the music biz's elite club. While the evening will no doubt rank as one of the soul man's finest hours, the 59-year-old performer admits that his career pinnacle thus far remains the 1972 Academy Awards — where he became the first African-American to win best original song for the "Theme from Shaft."

"When I was selected, everyone thought I would take a fine chick with me," he recalls. "But I took my grandmother as my date. This was the most important moment of my life, and I wanted her to be there.

"When we were growing up, we had it rough," adds Hayes, who is courting a new generation of fans as the voice of Chef on South Park. "So I prayed to God to let her live long enough [so that I could] thank her in the way that I wanted to — in front of millions of people, dedicating the Oscar to her."

Well, Hayes had better make room next to Oscar for his latest trophy. His entry into the Hall of Fame puts him in the same league as Elvis, the Beatles and Bob Dylan. "It's mind-blowing," he says of the lifetime achievement award. "It's a very exciting and validating experience to be recognized along with all the giants of the music business. It's a very prestigious thing."