SIXTEEN YEARS AFER HIS DEATH, SOUL LEGEND CURTIS MAYFIELD STILL LEAVES FOOTPRINT AT THE GRAMMY® AWARDS
The “Grammy Streak” continues for music giant and singer-composer-musician Curtis Mayfield - 16 years after his death and 60 years after his first recordings established him as one of Chicago’s (and the world’s) premier R&B and Soul performers.
This year, Mayfield is nominated and remembered as part of D’Angelo’s recording of “Really Love” in the Record of the Year, Best R&B Song and Best R&B album categories.
The D’Angelo recording “samples” a Mayfield classic, “We People Who Are Darker Than Blue” which was first released in 1970.
Mayfield also scored a Grammy nomination in 2014, when one of his legacy songs and biggest hits, “People Get Ready,” was sampled by hip hop duo, Maclemore and Ryan, for their “Same Love” hit, earning a Song of the Year Grammy® Award.
Mayfield is a two-time inductee into the Grammy® Hall of Fame, and winner of the Grammy® Legend Award and Lifetime Achievement Award, personally presented to him by Bruce Springsteen in 1995.
“Some of Curtis’ recording longevity is obviously due to the high regard his music has among the current crop of R&B, Rap and Hip Hop artists,” says Altheida Mayfield, the singer’s widow, who administers a very active Mayfield estate with input and assistance from Curtis’ children. “Curtis’ music always had significance - Martin Luther King would often comment on it - and the political climate and situations that inspired Curtis to create his particular kind of social commentary within his music are still very much with us.”
During Mayfield’s last years, Hip Hop and Rap began to join Soul and R&B as dominant forces in urban music and the era of “sampling” in earnest had begun.
The newcomers of music have found a rich and fertile field in sampling Mayfield’s music.
Among those of a younger generation sampling Mayfield’s music have been Tupac Shakur, LL Cool J, Mary J. Blige, Notorious BIG, Beastie Boys, Eminen, Ice T, Chuck D, Usher, NWA, R. Kelly, Queen Latifah, and more.
Along with Jay Z., Kanye West appears to be a leader in the band of brothers who love to dig into the Curtis Mayfield songbook and sample what’s there. The sampling of Mayfield’s “Little Child, Runnin’ Wild” on “Flashing Lights” is just one of several.
Perhaps the most eye-raising Mayfield sampler is reggae master Bob Marley, who released “One Love,” which became a worldwide hit. After the release, it was noticed that a large part of this reggae anthem owed much to Curtis Mayfield and his socio-political anthem, “People Get Ready,” promoted several years earlier. Result: the song is now known by both titles and Marley and Mayfield share composer credits.
In the spring, a book of Mayfield’s lyrics will be released as a book of poetry and in June the late prolific songwriter will be honored by the Songwriters Hall of Fame in New York with the awarding of the first-ever Curtis Mayfield Scholarship for young songwriters.
As songwriter Carole King once-remarked, “I think every day should be a tribute to Curtis Mayfield.”