CURTIS MAYFIELD –A 20TH ANNIVERSARY OF HIS PASSING, DECEMBER 26, 2019
Long before Atlanta was the ATL, the Motown of the Dirty South, before Big Boi was even a little boy,
Curtis Mayfield saw the city as a potential music capital.—ATLANTA JOURNAL CONSTITUTION
TWICE INDUCTED INTO ROCK’S HALL OF FAME: MAYFIELD’S AMAZING CAREER – STARTED AT AGE 14 - GIVES THE SOUL ICON’S WORLDWIDE FANS A REASON TO CELEBRATE FOUR DECADES OF MUSICAL GENIUS THAT ENDED ON DECEMBER 26, 1999
(Atlanta, GA)---December 26, 2019 is going to be a time to pause and remember Chicago native Curtis Mayfield, a musical giant, who passed away 20 years ago, in his adopted hometown of Roswell, Georgia, at the age of 57. WEBSITE: www.curtismayfield.com
Aretha Franklin called Mayfield, “Incredible. The voice of a nation—and still is.”
This year has been especially singled out, alongside all the other years, to commemorate his solo career with Warner/Rhino releasing a handsome box set of Curtis’ 1970-74 solo albums.
Mayfield, a unique singer-songwriter-producer-arranger made an innovative impact on the recording business that spilled over into black entrepreneurship and the civil rights movement.
His legacy endures on many cultural fronts, says Altheida Mayfield, widow and keeper of the Mayfield
Curtis Mayfield recorded a string of hits with The Impressions (Curtis & The Impressions will be
honored with an historical plaque in Chattanooga, where The Impressions were born, on December 3) before leaving the influential soul-gospel group to embark upon a solo career that began 50 years ago and produced some of his greatest work.
Known as the “Gentle Genius,” Mayfield has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice – first as a member of The Impressions and later as a solo artist.
In 2019, Rhino spotlighted Mayfield’s early solo career in a (CD & Vinyl) collection that includes newly remastered versions of his first four studio albums: Curtis (1970), Roots (1971), Back to the World (1973) and Sweet Exorcist (1974). KEEP ON KEEPING ON: CURTIS MAYFIELD STUDIO ALBUMS 1970- 1974.
**On Dec. 3: Hometown heroes and world-famous group The Impressions (& The Curtis Mayfield
Family) will be honored by the State of Tennessee with installation of a “Tennessee Music
Pathways” historical marker at the Bessie Smith Cultural Center in Chattanooga
Currently being organized by the Mayfields are a number of projects, they involve the Smithsonian Institute, celebrations in his hometown of Chicago, a reworking of Mayfield recordings, a documentary covering his life and times, a book penned by Mrs. Mayfield and Herb Powell (co-author of Maurice White’s autobiography), a film and a possible touring musical.
Also, hopefully, the U.S. Postal Service will react to a newly-launched request for a Mayfield stamp from the Mayfield family and fans and other Curtis loyalists.
So, what happened 60 years ago for Curtis Mayfield, child of the Cabrini-Green housing project in Chicago, with a passion for a special kind of music that he heard in his head and perhaps his soul...?
Explains Altheida Mayfield: “That was the year Curtis took control of his career, moving from his comfort zone as a member of a successful soul group and into untried and uncharted areas for a young black man who was a high school drop out.”
In 1971 Mayfield began to see himself as a solo performer... and record producer, arranger, guitarist, sound engineer and entrepreneur, as in running his own label, the hit producing Curtom Records.
Along the way he would also write any number of hit songs, including one that a U.S. Ambassador, no less, would consider “crucial” to the civil rights movement.
Mayfield would also, beginning in 1971, successfully storm the citadels of the Hollywood movie studio system.
This year, this life and these times are what is still being honored, six decades onward and, for Mayfield, who sadly died in 1999, still upward. “He remains alive as an artistic force... and a family business enterprise,” says Atlanta-based Altheida Mayfield.
His recordings are still being re-released, his songs still recorded (major artists have put together several tribute albums devoted to his work) and his image and memory remain iconic.
Mayfield has hundreds of awards to his credit including the Grammy® Lifetime Achievement Award presented to him by Bruce Springsteen.
Rolling Stone magazine named Mayfield’s “Superfly” movie soundtrack at No. 69 on the 100 greatest albums of all time. The album was a groundbreaker for the grit and realism of its lyrics which echoed black urban street life accurately. Lyrics that, critics have noted, provided signposts for, at the time, the emerging rap and hip hop generations.
It also taught Hollywood something about power to the people, especially if they let these particular people loose on a soundtrack. “Superfly” is one of the select few to actually out gross the movie from which it came. Mayfield began recording it in 1971.
Mayfield’s civil rights anthems remain part of the culture. Mayfield’s most celebrated song from this period, "People Get Ready “became a crucial part of the civil rights movement, especially in Curtis’ hometown of Chicago,” said U.S. Ambassador and activist, Andrew Young.
Other soul singers noted Mayfield’s impact with this kind of song and followed suit: Marvin Gaye, James Brown. And even National Public Radio named “People Get Ready” one of the 300 most important recordings of the century!
MORE ON CURTIS & HIS LEGACY
Legendary soul, R&B, funk singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, mentor, record producer and social activist Curtis Mayfield was honored by family, friends and fans when he was posthumously inducted into Hollywood’s RockWalk on Tuesday, May 20, 2008.
Hollywood’s RockWalk is the only sidewalk gallery dedicated to honoring those artists who have made a significant impact and lasting contribution to the growth and evolution of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Blues and R&B. Mayfield’s bronze bust will reside alongside the handprints, signatures, and faces of other equally accomplished musicians and innovators such as Eric Clapton, Carlos Santana, Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Bonnie Raitt, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Marvin Gaye, James Brown, Brian Wilson, Stevie Wonder, John Lee Hooker and Earth Wind & Fire among numerous others.
Born in Chicago, Illinois, Mayfield’s love for music cultivated singing in his grandmother’s Traveling Soul Spiritualists’ Church on the cities North Side. His career began in 1956 when he joined The Roosters with Arthur and Richard Brooks and Jerry Butler. Two years later, with the addition of Sam Gooden, the group became The Impressions. Mayfield became lead singer when Butler left the group. The Impressions saw success with such songs as “Gypsy Woman,” “Amen,” “Keep on Pushin,” “People Get Ready,” “Choice of Colors,” “Fool For You,” “This is My Country” and “Check Out Your Mind.”
In 1970, Mayfield left The Impressions and began a solo career, founding the independent record label Curtom Records. Curtom was the home for most of Mayfield’s landmark 1970’s records as well as records by The Impressions, The Staple Singers and Mavis Staples, to name a few. His most influential album, Superfly, the soundtrack to the blaxploitation film of the same name, was released in 1972. Mayfield’s lyrics were a hard-hitting commentary on the state of black affairs in black, urban ghettos at the time. This album ushered in a new socially conscious, funky style of popular soul music and was named the 64th most influential album of all time by Rolling Stone Magazine in 2004.
Despite the twist and turns of the music industry over the years, Mayfield went on to work with artists including Aretha Franklin and Gladys Knight and the Pips and lend his producing and writing skills to soundtracks for the movies Claudine, Sparkle, A Piece of Action and Short Eyes.
After a tragic accident in 1990 left him paralyzed from the neck down, Mayfield forged ahead continuing to write songs and directing the recording of his last album New World Order, which was painstakingly recorded as he lie on his back enabling him to get enough breath to sing.
Mayfield received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1995 and was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame on March 15, 1999, just a few short months before his death. Mayfield died on December 26, 1999 in Rosewell, GA surrounded by his family including his wife of over 30 years, Altheida, and their seven children.
On the anniversary of his passing, the Gentle Genius, who produced more than 750 songs in his short music lifetime and whose creativity influenced everyone from Jimi Hendrix to the sampling hip hoppers of our time, will once again be accorded well-deserved tributes by fans and media alike.