Charles “Skip” Pitts, the longtime Memphis guitar player whose distinctive riffs helped define soul and make Isaac Hayes’ “Shaft” theme cool, has died. He was 65.

Pitts is responsible for the unforgettable wah-wah guitar sound on Hayes’ “Theme from Shaft,” the ’70s Blaxploitation film that remains a memorable moment in American popular culture — mostly due to the enduring popularity of the song.

Tim Sampson, communication director with the Stax Museum of American Soul Music in Memphis, says Pitts died Tuesday after a long struggle with cancer.

Schooled by neighbor Bo Diddley while growing up in Washington, D.C., Pitts had a long, historic run in Memphis. He played with Hayes for nearly four decades, worked as a session musician for Stax Records and logged time with many significant soul acts.

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