Tag Archives: Gene Chandler

Song of the Day: Isaac Hayes’ “Theme from Shaft,” featuring Skip Pitts’ ghetto-powered wah-wah guitar groove


Isaac Hayes won the Academy Award for Best Original Song and was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song for “Theme from Shaft,” Gordon Parks’ 1971 blaxplotation masterpiece. Released as a double album by Stax Records’ Enterprise label, the mostly instrumental soundtrack became the best-selling LP ever released on a Stax label.

Of course, one of the main ingredients behind the song’s success is the mind-blowing wah-wah guitar of Charles “Skip” Pitts, who will be appearing at this year’s Ponderosa Stomp with the Bo-Keys and Harold Grimes. Pitts also lent his unforgettable grooves to Rufus Thomas’ “Do The Funky Chicken,” the Soul Children’s “I’ll Be the Other Woman,” The Isley Brothers’ “It’s Your Thing,” and Gene Chandler’s “Rainbow ’65.”

According to Wikipedia:

“The song begins with a sixteenth-note hi-hat ride pattern, played by Willie Hall, which was drawn from a break on Otis Redding’s ‘Try A Little Tenderness,’ a Stax record on which Hayes had played. Also featuring heavily in the intro is Charles Pitts’ guitar, which uses a wah-wah effect common in 1970s funk; the riff had originally been written for an unfinished Stax song. The synthesized keyboard is played by Hayes. Even on the edited single version, the intro lasts for more than two and a half minutes before any vocals are heard.

“The lyrics describe John Shaft’s coolness, courage, and sex appeal, and Hayes’ lead vocals are punctuated by a trio of female backup singers. At one famous moment, Hayes calls Shaft ‘a bad mother—’ before the backup singers (one of whom is Tony Orlando & Dawn’s Telma Hopkins) interrupt the implied profanity with the line ‘Shut yo’ mouth!’ Hayes immediately defends himself by replying that he’s ‘only talking about Shaft,’ with the back-up vocalists replying, ‘We can dig it.’ Other well-known passages include ‘You’re damn right!’ also uttered by Hayes, and ‘He’s a complicated man/but no one understands him/but his woman/John Shaft.'”

To see Charles “Skip” Pitts in person, buy your Ponderosa Stomp tickets here. For Stomp travel packages, see here.