June 03, 2014

On this day June 3rd

DARC Ethiophile Chronicles

On this day

June 3, 1942 singer, composer and guitarist Curtis Mayfield was born in Chicago, Illinois. He quickly absorbed the music of that area, which consisted of the local blues, gospel and soul musicians. 

In 1970, Mayfield embarked on a solo career, with his most memorable project credited as the classic 1972 soundtrack to Superfly. Mayfield was paralyzed during a 1990 stage accident in Brooklyn, New York, but continued to record until his death in 1999. 

He was leading his first group, The Alfatones, before he was a teenager. When the Mayfield family moved to Chicago's north side in 1956, he met singer Jerry Butler. While performing in a church choir, the two soon became friends. Butler however wanted Curtis to join him in a group called The Roosters, which consisted of Arthur and Richard Brooks, and Sam Gooden. The quintet later changed their name to The Impressions, and they had their first hit in 1958, "For your precious love”.

In 1961, Mayfield moved to New York, where the group recorded "Gypsy woman" which re-established the group, after some years of hard feelings between the members and the record company. Mayfield at this time became the group’s lead singer, utilizing his unique vocal style on several Impressions singles. A steady string of soul anthems followed, "I'm so proud", "Keep on Pushing", "People get ready", "We're a winner", "Mighty, mighty". The group had a strong gospel flavor in their sound, although it wasn’t purely gospel. As Mayfield puts it, "They were church songs, the difference was I left the word God out." In 1970 Mayfield left The Impressions for his solo career. His first album, "Curtis" contained the classic "Move on up" which was his only UK hit. "Curtis Live!" followed, which contained some material from The Impressions period. It was recorded at New York's Bitter End, and later the same year "Roots" followed. His early records are my favorite ones, especially "Curtis Live!" which is a wonderful record with lots of warm soul songs, and funky percussion by 'master' Henry Gibson.

In 1972, Curtis released the soundtrack album "Superfly" which went to sell over a million copies, and it was a really good album in its own right. It received four Grammy awards. By now Mayfield continued to record new albums, at the same time as he was producing with Gladys Knight & The Pips, Aretha Franklin and The Staple Singers. Curtis also appeared on the big screen when he had a role in the movie "Short eyes”, in which he also wrote the soundtrack for. In the 80'ies Curtis toured the whole world, and he wasn’t releasing much new material. In 1989 he contributed to the soundtrack of the movie "I'm gonna git you Sucka", and the following year he made some tunes for the movie "The Return of Superfly" . 1990 was a truly bad year for Mayfield. While he performed at an outdoor concert in Brooklyn, a lighting rig fell down on him, which caused such severe damage to his spine, leaving him a Quadriplegic. Since then he has kept a low profile. However, in 1996 he released a new album, on which he is only singing, since he cannot play guitar anymore.

Curtis Mayfield transitioned to the realm of an ancestor on December 26, 1999, in Roswell, GA.

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