Something that is old Thursdays: Isaac Hayes – Theme from ‘Shaft’ (1971)

‘I played this to my six-year-old son, now he has a moustache,’ reads one YouTube comment, summing up nicely the essence of the era in which Isaac Hayes’ Theme from Shaft was released.

For the most part the song is one big breakdown, combining a scatty-jazz structure with this forever-building sense of sexiness that finally escalates into the track’s iconic call and response lyrics. If the word Shaft isn’t subliminal enough for you, then the buttery vocals will certainly fill in the gaps.

Cheesy lines and swaggy outfits aplenty, rarely has a soundtrack and motion picture come as such a perfect package. The movie’s aesthetic very much mirrored the rise of funk, disco and soul at the time, with the black-lead being something of a milestone moment for Hollywood at the time.

Sadly, this was an example of Hollywood cashing in on the commercial potential of African American culture as much as it was them empowering it, with Richard Roundtree’s portrayal of John Shaft being dubbed ‘blaxploitation’ – a legit sub-genre of American films in the early ’70s.

The film itself would set the tone for cool action movies forever, repeatedly being referenced in other motion pictures and, of course, by The Simpsons during a spot of karaoke. With a score composed and selected by the legendary Hot Buttered Soul man, Isaac Hayes, himself, the film is more than just an A-level Media teacher’s case study.


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