Happy Birthday, Curtis Mayfield!
When you look at the greatest black musicians who ever lived, Curtis Mayfield and his slick grooves come to mind. The legendary Chicagoan would've turned 73 today (June 3).
Blessed with a sweet falsetto and knack for indelible arrangements, Mayfield used his talents to bring good times to the dance floor. There was no ignorance in his bliss, though. Mayfield was one of the first in a long line of soul singers (Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding) who transfused social awareness into song. A big example was 1965's "People Get Ready," which Mayfield performed with the Impressions.
Mayfield's entire discography deserves a look, but the Super Fly soundtrack will do if you can't dedicate the time. There still isn't a movie soundtrack that touches what Super Fly did. Not only is it the emotional fulcrum of a blaxploitation hallmark, but no other soundtrack touches the ambitious sprawl and urban decay-influenced poignancy that Mayfield's masterpiece did.
Sadly, Mayfield's health started its slow decline after he was paralyzed from the neck down after falling lighting equipment hit him during a performance at Flatbush, Brooklyn's Wingate Field. Although he could no longer play guitar, Mayfield composed and sang until his death from diabetes complications in 1999.
Mayfield's legacy lies in how he used music as a social statement -- as an emotional connector rather than a pulpit. He also lives on through hip-hop samples, too. Of course, the most famous example is Kanye West's "Touch The Sky," which prominently uses "Move On Up."
Listen to Curtis Mayfield's "Move On Up"
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