LOS ANGELES, Calif. - In 1971, the song was everywhere. "Who is the man who would risk his neck for his brother man?"Shaft? Damn right. Isaac Hayes' Shaftsoundtrack album became a #1 album on both the pop and R&B charts - andremained on the charts for a jaw-dropping 60 weeks. The first soul soundtrack to a major motion picture wouldearn Hayes a Grammy, Oscar and Golden Globe and set him on his way to stardom.The soundtrack continues to influence popular music - hip-hop in particular.
On November 3, 2009, Stax Records, a unit of Concord MusicGroup, will release Shaft (DeluxeEdition), a digitally remastered reissue of the soundtrack including abonus track: "Theme From Shaft [2009Mix]." Ashley Kahn, author of several music books, contributor to NPR's"Morning Edition" and adjunct professor at New York University, wrote the linernotes for the deluxe edition.
A primary reason for the enduring significance of theultimate Blaxploitation film Shaft isHayes' score. He created music that sounded like nothing else of its day. "Theone thing I've learned from Shaft,"Hayes told The New York Times in1972, "is that pop music doesn't set any restrictions anymore. You don't justhave to go up there and sing a song because that's the way it was always donebefore. Use whatever means necessary, be it rap, song or arrangement, to get tothe people."
As Kahn notes, "Ironically, the world's first major motionfilm score created by a soul music producer boasts few tracks that fit neatlyinto the category of soul. Hayes created a wide variety of styles - some vocal,most instrumental - to serve the film's many locations." Examples: theorgan-trio groove of "No Name Bar," the popping, jazzy pulse of "Be Yourself,"and the gentle 3/4 feel of "A Friend's Place," which channels the bittersweetsway of a Bacharach-David melody.
"Soulsville," a slow-moving vocal heard behind a lengthyghetto scene, features mournful saxophone and Hayes' somber voice delivering a sermonon inner city reality. And filling an entire album side was the 19-minute jam"Do Your Thing," featuring distorted guitar pushed along by intermittent hornlines and chanting of the song title.
But the best known song remains the four-minute, 40-second"Theme From Shaft." According to Staxhistorian Rob Bowman, both musical ideas came from Stax sessions in the '60s -the high-hat lick from the break of Otis Redding's 1966 recording of "Try aLittle Tenderness" and the guitar part from "a long forgotten track that forone reason or another was never released. The song went two and a half minutesbefore the vocal part began. And then, as Kahn describes, "thatcall-and-response, or rather question-and-answer lyric that elevated itssubject to a mythic level of machismo: who was the black private dick that was asex machine to all the chicks . .. who would risk his neck for brother man . . . who would not cop out." Shaft.Right on.
Released in September, 1971, "Theme From Shaft" was an immediate crossover hit:#1 on the pop chart, #2 R&B. It became the precursor not only to disco buthip-hop. Kahn notes that at thepremiere of the remake of Shaft withSamuel L. Jackson as its lead - 28 years and 18 albums after creating theoriginal soundtrack - Hayes told it like it was. "I've talked to someyounger A&R people who'd say, â€˜Well, what have you done lately?' And Ithought to myself, just turn on the radio and listen to some of your hip-hopstuff. That's what I've done lately."
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