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Shut your mouth! We're talkin' 'bout "Shaft" for today's SoundTRAX

Richard Roundtree and Isaac Hayes are pictured on the soundtrack to "Shaft."

Isaac Hayes' music for the 1971 film "Shaft" was a game changer and earned him an Oscar.

Today we're going back to 1971 and one of the most acclaimed "blaxploitation" films of all time, Shaft.

John Shaft, played by Richard Roundtree, is a private detective hired by a Harlem mobster to rescue his daughter who has been kidnapped by, well, other mobsters.

Yeah, there's a lot of violence and more than a few uncomfortable stereotypes at play, but at the height of Black Power, it was the movie a lot of people needed. It was selected in 2000 for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress for being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."

And a key part of its success was, without a doubt, the music.

Soul titan Isaac Hayes initially wanted to play Shaft but was instead asked to contribute three songs— songs the filmmakers loved so much they then asked him to compose the whole thing.

Hayes later told journalist Jon Burlingame, "I was Stax's No. 1 artist at the time, so I said, 'Okay, I'll give it a shot. I was excited just to do a movie score."

It was a double album with mostly instrumentals but also three terrific vocal selections. Once the score was composed and arranged, Hayes recorded the rhythm tracks with fellow Stax artists The Bar-Kays in one day.

The album went Platinum in a month, going to number one on the Billboard 200 chart, while also taking the top spot on the Top R&B Album chart for 14 weeks.

Even better, it assured that every Black action-adventure film for the next several years would be scored by a major artist of color.

Can there be any doubt as to today's SoundTRAX selection? Naturally, the one that made Hayes the first Black man to win an Oscar for a non-acting category when it won the award for Best Original Score. And mostly because it is a jam.

From Shaft it's Isaac Hayes with, you guessed it, the "Theme From Shaft."

SoundTRAX is a dive into notable music from iconic films and TV shows every Monday-Thursday at 8:10.

Mel is the WFPK morning host. Email Mel at mfisher@lpm.org.

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