Curtis Lee Mayfield (June 3, 1942 – December 26, 1999) was an American soul, R&B, and funk singer, songwriter, and record producer. He is best known for his anthemic music with The Impressions during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and for composing the soundtrack to the blaxploitation film Super Fly, Mayfield is highly regarded as a pioneer of funk and of politically conscious African-American music. He was also a multi-instrumentalist who played the guitar, bass, piano, saxophone, anddrums. Mayfield is a winner of both the Grammy Legend Award (in 1994) and the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award (in 1995), and was a double inductee into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, inducted as a member of The Impressions into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991, and again in 1999 as a solo artist. He is also a two-time Grammy Hall of Fame inductee.
Curtis Mayfield was known for introducing social consciousness into African American music as well as R&B and wrote songs protesting social and political equality. He had written and recorded the soundtrack to the blaxploitation film Super Fly with The Impressions. Super Fly is regarded as an all-time great that influenced many and truly invented a new style of modern black music. Just as the Civil Rights Act passed into law in 1964, his group The Impressions produced music that became the soundtrack to a summer of revolution. Black students sang their songs as they marched to jail or protested outside their universities, while King often marched to the peaceful sounds of Mayfield’s Keep On Pushing, People Get Ready and We’re A Winner. Mayfield had quickly become a civil rights hero.
Mayfield, along with several other soul and funk musicians, spread messages of hope in the face of oppression, pride in being a member of the black race and gave courage to a generation who were demanding their human rights. Mayfield has been compared to Martin Luther King Jr arguably for making a greater lasting impact in the civil rights struggle with his music. By the end of the decade he was a pioneering voice in the black pride movement along with James Brown and Sly Stone. Paving the way for a future generation of rebel thinkers, Mayfield paid the price, artistically and commercially, for his politically charged music. Irrespective of the persistent radio bans and loss of revenue, Mayfield continued his quest for equality right until his death. His lyrics on racial injustice, poverty and drugs became the poetry for a generation. Mayfield was also a descriptive social commentator. As the influx of drugs ravaged through black America in the late 1960s and 1970s his bittersweet descriptions of the ghetto would serve as warnings to the impressionable. Determined to warn all about the perils of drugs, “Freddie’s Dead” is a graphic tale of street life. In 1965, another gospel song emerged — “People Get Ready” by Mayfield and the Impressions. “Keep On Pushing” and “People Get Ready” were two songs that became embedded in the national movement for civil and social rights, heard at all the rallies and marches, songs-as-inspiration. His song “People Get Ready” was written in the year after the march on Washington’s. For many, it captured the spirit of the march—the song reaches across racial and religious lines to offer a message of redemption and forgiveness.
Mayfield produced many of the songs that helped shape and deﬁne the Black Power Movement, and exemplify the workings of music in the BPM and their 1967 song “We’re a Winner” can be seen as one deﬁning element of the movement. Mayﬁeld’s uncompromising look at racism and his calls for black pride and economic determinism place him ﬁrmly within the BPM. Signiﬁcantly, when he and his friend Eddie Thomas founded the Curtom record label to protect black artists from the exploitation that they often suffered with other record labels, not only was the BPM ideal of black entrepreneurship realized but also the BPM had a record label that was synonymous with Black Power. Empowered in part by the ownership of his own label and in part by his affiliations with other artists, Mayﬁeld presented a crucial look at American racism in “This is My Country” with lyrics that spoke of ‘three hundred years of slave driving, sweat and welts on my back’. ‘We’re a Winner’ conveys the essential ideological message of the BPM. By the time We’re a Winner was recorded, the BPM was a powerful, complex movement that incorporated politics, capitalism, internationalism and the arts that had its roots in the social circumstances and political opportunities of the post-World War II era. The title itself was a strong statement against inferiority complexes historically propagated among blacks by power brokers representing white social and cultural values, but the lyrics offer more than a critique – they offer an affirmative view of black culture that could foster mobilization and sustain political action under even threatening circumstances. Music, as exempliﬁed by Curtis Mayﬁeld, was to foster mobilization by presenting the political ideology of Black Power that enforced notions of black pride, but it also offered a venue for the creation of black culture that was not deﬁned by the dominant white culture.
Curtis Mayfield a pioneer, soul legend and activist.
Thank you Curtis!
source: wikipedia information, youtube videos and rolling stone magazine link