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 III (@IsaacHayes3) June 9, 2019
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.