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This was featured in the 1971 movie of the same name starring Richard Roundtree. It was remade in 2000 starring Samuel L. Jackson as Shaft. Hayes made an uncredited appearance in the remake, but that wasn't what he had in mind. According to Q magazine, Hayes agreed to write the Shaft theme after being promised the lead role but the promise wasn't kept - he didn't even get an audition.
This won a Grammy for Best Instrumental Arrangement and an Oscar for Best Original Score. The Oscar win made Hayes the first African-American to win an Academy Award in a composer category.
Hayes was a songwriter for Stax records before he became a successful recording artist. He wrote some hits for Sam & Dave, including "Soul Man" and "Hold On I'm Coming." Hayes explained in an interview with National Public Radio: "The character Shaft was explained to me: a relentless character always on the prowl, always on the move. I had to create something to denote that. Otis Redding's 'Try A Little Tenderness
,' I had a hand in arranging that. At the end, Al Jackson was doing some stuff on a hi-hat, and I thought if I sustained that kind of thing on a hi-hat, it would give a relentless, dramatic effect, and it worked."
Future actress (she was on the TV shows Bosom Buddies and Family Matters) Telma Hopkins was one of the backup singers. That's her saying "Shut Your Mouth!", which became a bit of a catchphrase for Hopkins, whose character would often say it on her shows. Joyce Wilson was the other backup singer; she and Hopkins performed as Tony Orlando's backup group Dawn.
The instruments were played by Memphis funk group The Bar-Kays. For a while, they were Otis Redding's backup band.
The distinctive funk guitar and hi-hat cymbals make this a very recognizable song. It is often used in commercials and TV promos, sometimes with the product name put in place of the word "Shaft."
Hayes was the voice of "Chef" on the TV show South Park. Despite being a cartoon, Chef usually found an opportunity to sing on each show.
There was also a TV version of Shaft, which lasted one season on CBS in 1973. Hayes contributed music to the series.
When Hayes was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002, he opened the ceremonies with this song.
Bart and Lisa sing this on The Simpsons episode "One Fish, Two Fish, Blowfish, Blue Fish."
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