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The Impressions

The quintessential Chicago soul group, the Impressions' place in R&B history would be secure if they'd done nothing but launch the careers of soul legends Jerry Butler and Curtis Mayfield. But far more than that, the Impressions recorded some of the most distinctive vocal-group R&B of the '60s under Mayfield's guidance. Their style was marked by airy, feather-light harmonies and Mayfield's influentially sparse guitar work, plus, at times, understated Latin rhythms. If their sound was sweet and lilting, it remained richly soulful thanks to the group's firm grounding in gospel tradition; they popularized the three-part vocal trade-offs common in gospel but rare in R&B at the time, and recorded their fair share of songs with spiritual themes, both subtle and overt. Furthermore, Mayfield's interest in the civil rights movement led to some of the first socially conscious R&B songs ever recorded, and his messages grew more explicit as the '60s wore on, culminating in the streak of brilliance that was his early-'70s solo work. The Impressions carried on without Mayfield, but only matched their earlier achievements in isolated instances, and finally disbanded in the early '80s.

The Impressions were formed in Chicago in 1957 as a doo wop group called the Roosters, a group of Chattanooga, TN, transplants that included vocalists Sam Gooden and brothers Richard and Arthur Brooks. Lead singer Jerry Butler joined up and soon brought in his friend Curtis Mayfield as guitarist; the two had previously sung together in a church choir and a couple of local gospel groups as youths. Renamed the Impressions by their manager, the group scored a major hit in 1958 with the classic ballad "For Your Precious Love," which hit the pop Top 20 and the R&B Top Five. Butler's gospel-inflected lead vocal was a departure from the norm, and the fact that the single billed him in front of the rest of the group foreshadowed his quick exit for a solo career, after just one more single ("Come Back My Love"). With new vocalist Fred Cash in tow, Mayfield took over the lead tenor role, eventually becoming the group's chief composer as well. First, though, he hit the road as guitarist and musical director for Butler's backing band, and also co-wrote some of Butler's earliest singles, including the R&B number one "He Will Break Your Heart" in late 1960.

Mayfield's success as a songwriter encouraged him to form his own publishing company. With the money he earned by working with Butler, he reconvened the Impressions and brought them to New York to record for ABC-Paramount in 1961. Their first single, the Latin-inflected "Gypsy Woman," was a number two R&B smash, also reaching the pop Top 20. Several follow-ups failed to duplicate its chart success, and the Brooks brothers left the group in 1962; now down to a trio, the Impressions returned to Chicago and began recording with arranger Johnny Pate, whose horn and string embellishments added a bit more heft to their sound. They struck gold in 1963 with "It's All Right," whose gospel-style lead-swapping helped make it not only their first R&B number one, but their biggest pop hit as well, with a peak of number four. The same year, they issued their eponymous first LP, which many critics still consider one of their finest. 1964 brought the hit single "Keep on Pushing," the first of Mayfield's numerous black pride anthems (though at this stage, his sentiments were much less explicit than they would later become). The album of the same name also featured a marching-beat cover of the gospel standard "Amen," inspired by the song's inclusion in the Sidney Poitier film Lilies of the Field. Gospel also informed what became perhaps the best-known Impressions hit, 1965's "People Get Ready"; if its lyrics weren't overtly political, Mayfield's intent was clear, as the song became an anthem of transcendence for the civil rights movement and an oft-covered soul standard.

The mid-'60s saw Mayfield trying to keep pace with the Motown hit factory by incorporating elements of its style into his own writing. The group recorded prolifically in 1965, but their commercial fortunes dropped off over the next couple of years. When the Impressions returned to the upper reaches of the R&B charts, it was with 1968's "We're a Winner," the most straightforward celebration of black pride Mayfield had yet composed. That summer, the group left ABC to record for Mayfield's newly formed Curtom imprint, which allowed them greater freedom in terms of the lyrical content Mayfield wanted to pursue. More aggressive message tracks like "This Is My Country," "Choice of Colors," and "Check Out Your Mind" followed over the next couple of years, as did some of the group's most consistent albums, particularly The Young Mods' Forgotten Story (1969). 1970's Check Out Your Mind was Mayfield's final album with the Impressions, but the group remained on Curtom after his departure, and he continued to write and produce some of their material.

Mayfield was replaced on lead vocals by Leroy Hutson, who debuted on LP with 1972's Times Have Changed. At this point, the Impressions were still overshadowed by their ex-leader, who was riding high with brilliant works like Superfly. But Mayfield's solo momentum cooled down a bit, and after Hutson departed in 1973, new singers Ralph Johnson and Reggie Torian joined Cash and Gooden for the R&B chart-topper "Finally Got Myself Together (I'm a Changed Man)," cut with ex-Motown producer Ed Townsend in 1974. Townsend continued to work with the group for the next couple of years with some success, but in 1976 Johnson left to join the unsuccessful Mystique. Around that point, the Impressions parted ways with Curtom; Nate Evans replaced Johnson, and the group recorded for Cotillion and 20th Century/Chi-Sound with little chart success. Evans eventually departed, leaving the group a trio again. They recorded their final album, Fan the Fire, in 1981; Gooden and Cash occasionally reunited with Mayfield and sometimes Butler for touring commitments. Mayfield was paralyzed in a heartbreaking stage accident in 1990, when a lighting scaffold toppled over on him; he passed away in 1999. ~ Steve Huey
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Three The Hard Way/First Impressions

1. Make A Resolution

2. Wendy

3. That's What Love Will Do

4. Something's Mighty, Mighty Wrong

5. Mister Keyes

6. Having A Ball

7. On The Move

9. Sooner Or Later

10. Same Thing It Took

11. Old Before My Time

12. First Impressions

13. Groove

14. I'm So Glad

15. How High Is High

16. Why Must A Love Song Be A Sad Song

x

Track List: The Best Of The Impressions (1968-1976)

1. This Is My Country

2. Fool For You

3. Gone Away

4. Choice Of Colors

5. Mighty, Mighty (Spade And Whitey)

6. Seven Years

8. Check Out Your Mind

10. You're Really Something, Sadie

11. Ain't Got Time

12. Times Have Changed

13. Potent Love

14. Preacher Man

15. If It's In You To Do Wrong

17. Something's Mighty, Mighty Wrong

18. Make A Resolution

19. First Impressions

20. Same Thing It Took

21. Sooner Or Later

22. Loving Power

x

Track List: The Greatest Hits

1. Gypsy Woman

2. It's All Right

3. Talking About My Baby

4. I'm So Proud

5. Keep On Pushing

6. You Must Believe Me

7. Amen

8. People Get Ready

9. Woman's Got Soul

10. Meeting Over Yonder

11. I Need You

12. You've Been Cheatin'

13. Can't Satisfy

14. We're A Winner (Live)

15. I Loved And I Lost

16. We're Rolling On (Live)

x

Track List: Check Your Mind!+Times Have Changed

2. Can't You See

3. You're Really Something, Sadie

4. Do You Want To Win?

6. Only You

9. We Must Be In Love

10. Say You Love Me

11. Stop The War

12. Times Have Changed

13. Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)

14. Our Love Goes On And On

15. Potent Love

16. Need To Belong To Someone

17. This Love's For Real

18. Love Me

x

Track List: This Is My Country & The Young Mods' Forgotten Stor

1. They Don't Know

2. Stay Close To Me

3. I'm Loving Nothing

4. Love's Happening

5. Gone Away

6. You Want Somebody Else

7. So Unusual

9. Fool For You

10. This Is My Country

11. The Young Mod's Forgotten Story

12. Choice Of Colours

13. The Girl I Find

15. My Deceiving Heart

16. Seven Years

17. Love's Miracle

18. Jealous Man

19. Soulful Love

20. Mighty Mighty (Spade And Whitey)

x

Track List: Keep On Pushing / People Get Ready

1. Keep On Pushing

2. I've Been Trying

3. I Ain't Supposed To

4. Dedicate My Song To You

5. Long Long Winter

6. Somebody Help Me

7. Amen

9. Talking About My Baby

10. Don't Let It Hide

11. I Love You (Yeah)

12. I Made A Mistake

13. Woman's Got Soul

15. Sometimes I Wonder

18. Can't Work No Longer

19. People Get Ready

22. See The Real Me

23. Get Up And Move

24. You Must Believe Me

x

Track List: It's About Time

1. In The Palm Of My Hands

2. You'll Never Find

3. Same Old Heartaches

4. I Need You

5. This Time

6. Stardust

7. I'm A Fool For Love

8. What Might Have Been

x

Track List: Rhythm!

1. Rhythm!

2. Star Bright

x

Track List: The Young Mod's Forgotten Story

1. The Young Mods' Forgotten Story

2. Choice Of Colors

3. The Girl I Find

4. Wherever You Leadeth Me

5. My Deceiving Heart

6. Seven Years

7. Love's Miracle

8. Jealous Man

9. Soulful Love

10. Mighty Mighty (Spade & Whitey)

Comments

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Love this song thank you god for all your love you give me
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~there ain't no room for the hopeless sinner who would hurt all mankind..cha n c e s grow thinner..
#there's hope for all..
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justinjenny4 9 5
❤❤❤❤
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I love this song! I always think of my father when I hear this! Daddy used to play this 24/7 back in the day. The struggle continues my people.
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My favorite was I Finally Got Myself Together. Oh what a song!!!
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Love,love,lo v e
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Don't read this. You will be kissed on the nearest possible Friday by the love of your life. Tomorrow will be the best day of your life. Now youve started reading this dont stop this is so freaky. But if you read this and ignore it you will have very bad luck. Put this on 15 songs in 143 mins. When you are done press the spacebar and your crushes name will appear in big letters on the screen this is so freaky it actually works.
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Just the pick me up i needed this afternoon It's All Right by The Impressions. . . . .
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I
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dragonlady60 8 8
MOTOWN u r MISSED
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dragonlady60 8 8
U know u love ole skl
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lizabdiaz
This is a beautiful song
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They made me a white!! convert in the sixtes!!
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Keep, on pushing brothers.':
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This, is a beautiful song. It is still even to this day..
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I LIKE THIS song l was back there
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I love the impressions thank god for Mr. Butler known as the ice man & Curtis Mayfield for putting the impressions on the map here in Chicago Amen smile..
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I love you impressions.
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ubm3
Although, the music is outstanding. We should remain mindful that embodied in the music was a message of Human Rights.
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artiedianefr a n k l i n
Good music good times back in the day. Do u agree
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Kids today don't know good music thins is the best
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immortal-spi r i t u a l - l a t e r Curtis got angry during justified angry times but the spirituality never left him.
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Im so proud . So proud BABY. To bee loved by u
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Baby it's alright cause I'm here for you with Love like no other climb on top let's get it on baby it's alright let me make love to You.
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Love the Impressions
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Curtis Mayfield is and was a genius!
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I love this music. Rock Ezell
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NICE**** TODAY & YesterDAY Music
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I like this song
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Gone but. Not. For gotton. Motown
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I love this song it so real
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This is Compton s**t
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lynnparkwell s
It's alright ..... Thinking bout my grandma.... Party on mookie RIP#LenaGreg o r y # A L W A Y S loved.
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Handbags sch high-tech Geffen benefited Gehry iffy high th
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just plain one of the best! SO SOULFUL AND WONDERFUL!
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A better day is coming! just hang on! I like this song!
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Very Nice'!
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Does anyone know the Tams concert schedule for remaining July & August if in SC or NC?
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"Man Oh Man" The odds are against us but,
I'll Take A Chance*Choic e s Are Never To-Be Regrets
~H-Town~Groo v i n ' ~ W e - D o n ' t - S t o p - T h e - M u s i c ~
LOVE+S Disciple °23k*978*1*~ 7 m 1 4 y ~
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This is the kind o music that was meant to be enjoyed! You don't find it any better nowadays.:(
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ecaroldavis
Great Bio! Curtis' music is classic!
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I AM AT WORK LISTING TO SOME GOOD MUSIC
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Man Oh Man!
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very nice
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Yougo
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I love this song! It reminds me of daddy when would sing this around the house. It reminds me of our days of growing up on Long Island and being happy and going to school. Love The Impressions! Curtiss and Jerry were amazing vocalists.
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Forbidden love affair brings about despair*978* 4 m 1 4 y ~
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mimivo.mm
Its too bad you couldnt come to me personally, you lied when I gave you the chance.
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LOVE THIS ONE TO RASHON IBN ALMUHYI HIT BACK
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They should do Curtis Mayfield biography on TV
Show more

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