Curtis Mayfield was a singer-songwriter who first came to prominence as a performer in the group The Impressions during the turbulent civil rights era of the 1950’s and 60’s. Being the main lyricist of the group, his songs gradually became more reflective of social issues which were effecting mainly black housing projects.
Think drug abuse, racism and depravation. Especially the latter, which Mayfield had roughly experience throughout childhood.
Upon leaving the group, Mayfield went on to find even greater success as a solo artist.
In the 70s, he penned and produced the soundtrack for the Blaxploitation movie “Superfly” through his brand of socially conscious soul and funk music.
Born in 1942 in Chicago USA as one of five kids in the family. From an early age, he had been singing in gospel groups encouraged by his mother, from whom he learnt how to play the piano.
When he reached the age of fourteen he joined a musical group with a school friend that would later become The Impressions.
In 1970, Mayfield left The Impressions to launch a solo career.
In 1972 he released the soundtrack to a film which became one of soul music’s most defining albums of that decade with it’s political and social content.
The music to the Blaxploitation film “Superfly” sought out to be a scathing attack on the glorification of drugs that were ravaging about the black inner cities at the time. With songs like “Pusherman” and “Freddie’s Dead.”
Following the commercial success of the Superfly album, Mayfield was then asked to produce some film soundtrack albums for other artists such as Gladys Knight and the Pips, Aretha Franklin and The Staples Sisters (featuring Mavis Staples).
He remained a prominent artist during the seventies, but in the following decade his popularity and subsequently record sales began to drop.
Whilst performing in the summer of 1990, he became paralyzed from the neck down due to an accident where some lighting equipment fell on top of him.
He refused to let a medical setback stop him from continuing to perform.
After having a decline in popularity during the eighties, the nineties saw the accolades finally come for Mayfield, in which he was recognized for his contributions to popular music.
In 1995 he was given a Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999. But, because of ill health was unable to attend the event.
Despite being paralyzed, he still was able to compose and record songs. As time went on, his health continued to suffer and ended up having one of his legs amputated as a result of Diabetes.
He died on Boxing Day 1999 at the age of 57 and as a result of diabetes.
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