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The Invention of the Wah-Wah Pedal

Stashed in: Rock!, Music, Freakonomics

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The riff -- a rhythmic “chika-chika-chika” strumming -- would become one of the most recognizable guitar parts in history.

“To me, it seemed repetitious, redundant, and ridiculous,” Pitts later complained. “At the time it came out and I heard it in the car, I still didn’t like what i was doing. I said, ‘Why’d he let me do that shit all the way through the song?!”

Critics reacted differently. Released as a single in 1971, “Theme from Shaft” went on to chart #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, #2 on the Billboard Soul Single Chart, and #6 on the Billboard’s Easy Listening Chart. In 1972, the song won the Academy Award for Best Original Song, making Hayes the first African-American to ever win the award.

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