Thursday, June 13, 2024

“Shaft” Gives the Shaft to Oscar Winning Composer, R&B Hero Isaac Hayes, Leaves Out Famous Music from New Film


Besides Richard Roundtree, the one thing that anyone remembers from the groundbreaking 1971 film “Shaft” is the music. The main theme became a number 1 hit instrumental single.  The following spring, Isaac Hayes was the first black person to win the music Oscars, Best Song and Best Score.

Hayes, who’d previously been known as the hit composer at Stax Records for Sam & Dave, and Carla Thomas, launched a stellar solo career off “Shaft,” a record that has been played millions of times and was used in subsequent versions of the movie.

But when the newest “Shaft” movie opens tomorrow, you will not be hearing Isaac Hayes’s famous music. And I mean famous like the theme from “Mission Impossible” or “Star Wars.” When you hear those funky opening notes, you know it’s “Shaft” (shut your mouth).

The producers of the new movie, says Isaac’s son Isaac Hayes III on social media, refused to make a deal with him. This sounds a lot like what happened last year to the miserable reboot of “Superfly” without Curtis Mayfield’s signature score. You can hear what he has to say here:

Isaac Hayes was a musical genius, but he suffered financially when he was alive. For most of his career he lost the rights to his songs in bankruptcy. He was co-opted by Scientology, which in the end ruined his career and added to his ailing health. “Shaft” is the gem of his hits abundant catalog. Cutting him out of the movie is unforgivable. This would never happen with a white composer. Can you imagine “Mission Impossible” cutting out Lalo Schifrin’s theme music over a budget squabble? No. Never.

In the end, the Hayes estate may have dodged a bullet anyway. The new “Shaft” has a lowly 36 on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s going to flop at the box office. Better to watch the original and enjoy Isaac Hayes’s music separately.


Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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