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Famous Like Me > Singer > M > Curtis Mayfield

Profile of Curtis Mayfield on Famous Like Me

Name: Curtis Mayfield  
Also Know As:
Date of Birth: 26th December 1942
Place of Birth: Chicago, Illinois, Mayfield came
Profession: Singer
From Wikipedia, the free Encyclopedia

Curtis Mayfield (June 3, 1942 – December 26, 1999) was an African American soul, funk and R&B singer, songwriter and guitarist probably best known for his soundtrack to the blaxploitation film Superfly.


Early years and the Impressions

Born in Chicago, Illinois, Mayfield came to prominence as lead singer and songwriter for The Impressions, then went on to a successful solo career. Perhaps most notably, Mayfield was among the first of a new wave of mainstream African-American R&B performing artists and composers who injected social commentary into their work. This "message music" became extremely popular during the period of political ferment and social upheaval of the 1960s and '70s.

Mayfield's career began in 1958 (see 1958 in music), when he formed The Impressions with Jerry Butler, Sam Gooden, Richard Brooks, and Arthur Brooks. The band had hits with "For Your Precious Love" and "Gypsy Woman." After Butler left the group and was replaced with Fred Cash, Mayfield became lead singer, frequently composing for the band, as well. "Amen", an updated version of an old gospel tune, was included in the soundtrack of 1963 MGM film Lilies of the Field, which starred Sidney Poitier. The Impressions reached the height of their popularity in the mid to late 1960s, with a string of Mayfield compositions that included "Keep On Pushin'", "People Get Ready", "Choice of Colors", "This is My Country", and "We People Who Are Darker than Blue." Mayfield's "We're a Winner" became a virtual anthem of the black power and black pride movements.

Solo career

In 1970, Mayfield left The Impressions and began a solo career, founding the independent record label Curtom Records. Curtom would go on to release most of Mayfield's landmark 1970s records, as well as records by the Impressions, Leroy Hutson, The Staples Singers, and Mavis Staples, and Baby Huey and the Babysitters, a group which at the time included Chaka Khan. Many of these records were also produced by Mayfield.

The commercial and critical peak of his solo career came with his 1972 album Superfly, the soundtrack to the blaxploitation film of the same name, and one of the most influential albums in history. Mayfield's lyrics included hard-hitting commentary on the state of affairs in black, urban ghettos at the time, previously unheard of in blaxploitation films. Bob Donat (1972), wrote in Rolling Stone that while the film's message "was diluted by schizoid cross purposes" because it "glamorizes machismo-cocaine consciousness... the anti-drug message on [Mayfield's soundtrack] is far stronger and more definite than in the film." Along with Marvin Gaye's What's Going On and Stevie Wonder's Innervisions, this album ushered in a new socially conscious, funky style of popular soul music.

Superfly's success lead to Mayfield being tapped for two more blaxploitation soundtracks, which he wrote and produced while having others perform the vocals. Gladys Knight & the Pips recorded Mayfield's soundtrack for Claudine in 1974, while Aretha Franklin recorded the soundtrack for Sparkle in 1976.

Later years

Mayfield was active throughout the 1970s and 1980s, though he had a somewhat lower public profile. On August 14, 1990, Mayfield was paralyzed from the neck down after stage lighting equipment fell on him at a concert in Brooklyn, New York. This tragedy set him back, but Mayfield forged ahead. He was unable to play guitar, but he wrote, sang and directed the recording of his comeback New World Order. Mayfield's vocals were painstakingly recorded, usually line-by-line.

In 1998, he had to have his right leg amputated due to diabetes. Mayfield died on December 26, 1999 in Roswell, Georgia. As a member of The Impressions, Mayfield was pothumously inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2003.


  • Curtis (1970)
  • Curtis Live (1971)
  • Roots (1971)
  • Superfly (1972)
  • Back to the World (1973)
  • Curtis in Chicago (1973)
  • Sweet Exorcist (1974)
  • Got to Find a Way (1974)
  • There's No Place Like America Today (1975)
  • Give, Get, Take and Have (1976)
  • Never Say You Can't Survive (1977)
  • Do It All Night (1978)
  • Heartbeat (1979)
  • Something to Believe In (1980)
  • Love is the Place (1981)
  • Honesty (1982)
  • We Come in Peace With a Message of Love (1985)
  • Live in Europe (1988)
  • Take It To the Streets (1990)
  • New World Order (1996)


  • Bob Donat, review of Superfly, in Rolling Stone, November 9, 1972. On line at .

This content from Wikipedia is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Curtis Mayfield