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Curtis Mayfield

Perhaps because he didn't cross over to the pop audience as heavily as Motown's stars, it may be that the scope of Curtis Mayfield's talents and contributions have yet to be fully recognized. Judged merely by his records alone, the man's legacy is enormous. As the leader of the Impressions, he recorded some of the finest soul vocal group music of the 1960s. As a solo artist in the 1970s, he helped pioneer funk and helped introduce hard-hitting urban commentary into soul music. "Gypsy Woman," "It's All Right," "People Get Ready," "Freddie's Dead," and "Super Fly" are merely the most famous of his many hit records.

But Curtis Mayfield wasn't just a singer. He wrote most of his material at a time when that was not the norm for soul performers. He was among the first -- if not the very first -- to speak openly about African-American pride and community struggle in his compositions. As a songwriter and a producer, he was a key architect of Chicago soul, penning material and working on sessions by notable Windy City soulsters like Gene Chandler, Jerry Butler, Major Lance, and Billy Butler. In this sense, he can be compared to Smokey Robinson, who also managed to find time to write and produce many classics for other soul stars. Mayfield was also an excellent guitarist, and his rolling, Latin-influenced lines were highlights of the Impressions' recordings in the '60s. During the next decade, he would toughen up his guitar work and production, incorporating some of the best features of psychedelic rock and funk.

Mayfield began his career as an associate of Jerry Butler, with whom he formed the Impressions in the late '50s. After the Impressions had a big hit in 1958 with "For Your Precious Love," Butler, who had sung lead on the record, split to start a solo career. Mayfield, while keeping the Impressions together, continued to write for and tour with Butler before the Impressions got their first Top 20 hit in 1961, "Gypsy Woman."

Mayfield was heavily steeped in gospel music before he entered the pop arena, and gospel, as well as doo wop, influences would figure prominently in most of his '60s work. Mayfield wasn't a staunch traditionalist, however. He and the Impressions may have often worked the call-and-response gospel style, but his songs (romantic and otherwise) were often veiled or unveiled messages of black pride, reflecting the increased confidence and self-determination of the African-American community. Musically he was an innovator as well, using arrangements that employed the punchy, blaring horns and Latin-influenced rhythms that came to be trademark flourishes of Chicago soul. As the staff producer for the OKeh label, Mayfield was also instrumental in lending his talents to the work of other Chi-town soul singers who went on to national success. With Mayfield singing lead and playing guitar, the Impressions had 14 Top 40 hits in the 1960s (five made the Top 20 in 1964 alone), and released some above-average albums during that period as well.

Given Mayfield's prodigious talents, it was perhaps inevitable that he would eventually leave the Impressions to begin a solo career, as he did in 1970. His first few singles boasted a harder, more funk-driven sound; singles like "(Don't Worry) If There's a Hell Below, We're All Gonna Go" found him confronting ghetto life with a realism that had rarely been heard on record. He really didn't hit his artistic or commercial stride as a solo artist, though, until Super Fly, his soundtrack to a 1972 blaxploitation film. Drug deals, ghetto shootings, the death of young black men before their time: all were described in penetrating detail. Yet Mayfield's irrepressible falsetto vocals, uplifting melodies, and fabulous funk pop arrangements gave the oft-moralizing material a graceful strength that few others could have achieved. For all the glory of his past work, Superfly stands as his crowning achievement, not to mention a much-needed counterpoint to the sensationalistic portrayals of the film itself.

At this point Mayfield, along with Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye, was the foremost exponent of a new level of compelling auteurism in soul. His failure to maintain the standards of Super Fly qualifies as one of the great disappointments in the history of black popular music. Perhaps he'd simply reached his peak after a long climb, but the rest of his '70s work didn't match the musical brilliance and lyrical subtleties of Super Fly, although he had a few large R&B hits in a much more conventional vein, such as "Kung Fu," "So in Love," and "Only You Babe."

Mayfield had a couple of hits in the early '80s, but the decade generally found his commercial fortunes in a steady downward spiral, despite some intermittent albums. On August 14, 1990, he became paralyzed from the neck down when a lighting rig fell on top of him at a concert in Brooklyn, NY. In the mid-'90s, a couple of tribute albums consisting of Mayfield covers appeared, with contributions by such superstars as Eric Clapton, Bruce Springsteen, and Gladys Knight. Though no substitute for the man himself, these tributes served as an indication of the enormous regard in which Mayfield was still held by his peers. He died December 26, 1999 at the age of 57. ~ Richie Unterberger
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: New World Order

1. New World Order

2. Ms. Martha

3. Back To Living Again

4. No One Knows About A Good Thing (You Don't Have To Cry)

5. Just A Little Bit Of Love

6. We People Who Are Darker Than Blue

7. I Believe In You

8. Here But I'm Gone

9. It Was Love That We Needed

10. The Got Dang Song

11. The Girl I Find Stays On My Mind

12. Let's Not Forget

13. Oh So Beautiful

x

Track List: The Very Best Of Curtis Mayfield

1. (Don't Worry) If There's A Hell Below We're All Going To Go

2. The Makings Of You

3. Move On Up

4. Get Down

5. We Got To Have Peace

6. Freddie's Dead (Theme From

7. Superfly

8. Pusherman

9. Future Shock

10. Can't Say Nothin'

11. Kung Fu

12. So In Love

13. Only You Babe

14. Do Do Wap Is Strong In Here

15. Between You Baby And Me

16. Do Be Down

x

Track List: Back To The World

1. Back To The World

2. Future Shock

3. Right On For The Darkness

4. Future Song (Love A Good Woman, Love A Good Man)

5. If I Were Only A Child Again

6. Can't Say Nothin'

7. Keep On Trippin'

x

Track List: Superfly - Deluxe 25th Anniversary Edition

1. Little Child Runnin' Wild

2. Pusherman

3. Freddie's Dead

4. Junkie Chase (Instrumental)

5. Give Me Your Love (Love Song)

6. Eddie You Should Know Better

7. No Thing On Me (Cocaine Song)

8. Think (Instrumental)

9. Superfly

10. Freddie's Dead (Theme From "Superfly")

11. Superfly

x

Track List: Curtis/Live!

1. Mighty Mighty (Spade And Whitey) (Live)

2. Rap #1 (Live)

3. I Plan To Stay A Believer (Live)

4. We're A Winner (Live)

5. Rap #2 (Live)

6. We've Only Just Begun (Live)

7. People Get Ready (Live)

8. Rap #3 (Live)

9. Stare And Stare (Live)

10. Check Out Your Mind (Live)

11. Gypsy Woman (Live)

12. The Makings Of You (Live)

13. Rap #4 (Live)

14. We The People Who Are Darker Than Blue (Live)

15. (Don't Worry) If There's A Hell Below We're All Going To Go (Live)

16. Stone Junkie (Live)

17. Superfly (Live: WTTW-TV Chicago)

18. Mighty Mighty (Spade And Whitey) (Live Single Version)

x

Track List: Roots

1. Get Down

2. Keep On Keeping On

3. Underground

4. We Got To Have Peace

5. Beautiful Brother Of Mine

6. Now You're Gone

7. Love To Keep You In My Mind

8. Underground (Demo)

9. Get Down (Single)

10. We Got To Have Peace (Single)

11. Beautiful Brother Of Mine (Single)

x

Track List: Curtis

1. (Don't Worry) If There's A Hell Below We're All Going To Go

2. The Other Side Of Town

3. The Makings Of You

4. We The People Who Are Darker Than Blue

5. Move On Up (Extended Version)

6. Miss Black America

7. Wild And Free

8. Give It Up

9. Power To The People (Demo Version)

10. Underground (Demo Version)

11. Ghetto Child (Demo Version)

12. Readings In Astrology (Demo Version)

13. Suffer (Demo Version)

14. Miss Black America (Demo Version)

15. The Makings Of You (Take 32, Backing Tracks)

16. (Don't Worry) If There Is A Hell Below, We're All Going To Go (Backing Tracks)

17. (Don't Worry) If There's A Hell Below We're All Going To Go (Single Edit)

x

Track List: Short Eyes (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

1. Do Do Wap Is Strong In Here

2. Back Against The Wall

3. Need Someone To Love

4. A Heavy Dude

5. Short Eyes/Freak, Freak, Free, Free, Free

6. Break It Down

7. Another Fool In Love

8. Father Confessor (Instrumental)

Comments

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Move On Up.....love this song. Curtis Mayfield...m u c h love!!!
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mysteriousst r a n g e r s 8 6
❤❤❤❤❤
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Cause Freddie's Dead...
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One of our most underrated geniuses. He did it all, sing, write, commentate, uplift, produce and play instrument. I miss Curtis. Thankfully his music survives him.
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Love Curtis to death
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koolkurt617
I was named after him.
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gnyce07
Don't read this. You will be kissed on the nearest Friday by the love of your life. Don't stop now this is freaky! But if you ignore this you will get bad luck. Put this on 15 songs in 144 minutes when you are done press the space bar and your crushes name will appear
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Named my son after you Curtis Mayfield
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Move On Up...my fave Curtis Mayfield song
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Now this is what you call real music. Just kick back and Let it soothe your soul.
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tlynch914
Pure genius. One and only Curtis Mayfield.
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I love Curtis Mayfield music
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Back to the world is one of his best songs we used to play that all the time in Korea
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Unclassed ����
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Mmm Mmm Mmm!
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andrew.mata1 3
Im your pusher man ��
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His music will live for ever......ri p
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vzw.d4197.01
Super Fly is the ultimate
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R.i.p he was a great artist that made many incredible hits his legacy will live on forever.
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Move On Up....feel good song. Curtis is the man!
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Vivian king real music love love love.
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Check out, l,am so in love, best slow jam ever....
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Master Henry Gibson on conga. Curtis was awarded an Oscar for this soundtrack. This song is from the era when music meant something.
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Thanks Pandora for being back old school if is best part of days with a cup of coffee
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Dat pusherman...
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Fred Sellers Lofton - from the Chi- miss u June 12 - high supreme! Raster, Dyett, and Harper high school. And how can I forget the "Destroyers" softball team#1. Thanks for all the laughs.
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One of "CHICAGO" best. I don't have to say anymore- Mr. Mayfield. Chicago best. Thanks.
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O yeah my Man & Jam A Lyrical Genuis RIP!!
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I believe that Amen was the most memorable song of his legacy
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i wish he was still living it is real sad that he passed
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Incredible singer/songw r i t e r . . . C u r t i s loved to take it back to church. People Get Ready is one of the greatest songs of all time.
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CURTIS !!!
THANK U FOR THE MEMORIES. THE 70's WILL ALWAYS BE PART OF MY LIFE? R.I.P.
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they just don't make music like this anymore
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One of the best, Legend Curtis Mayfield
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One of the less heralded greats, but great he was!

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Da man tells it like it is.....Viva Mr Mayfield.... . . . . . P u s h e r m a n
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The hall of fame.
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The man......
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jnetteparker
Love me some Curtis miss his music
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A. Real. Pioneer. That's. Right!!!!!!
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I love Curtis music.
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Gr@nsm@stwrf k a s g
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Little Blax Flix Child Running Wild.
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Freddie's Dead Blax Flix Classic.
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The ORIGINAL RAPPER..the baddest �� score in the70s
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What heart felt lyrics, the man, what ever race he was taken advantage of the weak. Pusher man, Mayor.....st i l l happening today. We have the power to change this, Brothers and Sisters our future existence depends upon it. Don't just blink....thi n k
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Love the truth... Embrace it males you strong....po w e r is light
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Da Bomb
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Love it..
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Move On Up....love the arrangement and instruments in this song gotta get up and boogie, lol.
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