Song: “Theme From Shaft” by Isaac Hayes
Reached #1: November 20, 1971 (his first, 2 weeks)
Imagine if the producers of Shaft had kept their promise to Isaac Hayes, and let him audition for the role of John Shaft. I mean… Richard Roundtree brought a certain menace to the role, but Hayes? That would have been… fascinating.
And you wonder if that would have changed his career arc – Hayes, for the most part, remained a musician who dabbled in acting more than an actor who did music. He also fell out of the public eye from the late ‘70s to the mid-‘90s.
His comeback was huge – with an album and the voiceover role he will always be remembered for. He played Chef on South Park from the beginning in 1997 to the controversial Scientology episode in 2006.
And it was Scientology that marked the end of Hayes’ career – when South Park, as they inevitably would, poked at the “church” and its high-profile celebrity members, Hayes allegedly quit the show. The word “allegedly” is important here – it was never clearly established whether Hayes quit, or the “church” quit for him. Nobody believes he had a hand in the letter sent to South Park’s production team… it’s only a matter of whether he believed it, or had been manipulated into it.
By 2007, he was clearly no longer himself – in interviews and performances, he was uncertain and slow. Whether this was due to his 2006 stroke or his “church” is also unclear. Sadly, his second stroke in 2008 was fatal.
Tomorrow, one of America’s favorite Aussie imports (no, not Foster’s)…
Other songs that reached #1 on November 20:
1965 – “I Hear A Symphony” by the Supremes (their sixth, 2 weeks)
2010 – “What’s My Name” by Rihanna feat. Drake (her sixth, 1 week)