LINER NOTES – CURTIS MAYFIELD – MUSIC’s HUMAN RIGHTS AMBASSADOR

I can’t say enough good things about Curtis Mayfield, MUSIC’s HUMAN RIGHTS AMBASSADOR of the 60’s  and 70’s.  Here’s a man who risked an already successful singing career to writing and recording socially conscious songs.  You know he made such a commitment to all people from his heart.  He pleaded with us all to be reasonable and accepting of other people’s differences in the song, “Choice of Colors.”  He encouraged us to have pride and self-respect in, “We’re A Winner.”  Of course, he was also a master of the beautiful Love Song like “The Makings of You.”  What a talented, genuinely nice, caring man.  I miss Curtis Mayfield.  As an artist, I hope to never forget what this great man stood for through his artistry.  He was a living example for us all to be lovers of human kind.  Let’s kick off this celebration of Curtis Mayfield with his performance of one of his many, many classics, “Move On Up.”


posted by meskalino

Curtom Records, a combination of the names Curtis and Thomas (Eddie Thomas, the Impressions’ manager), existed officially from 1968 to 1980.  Curtis’ record label was affiliated with Donny Hathaway (mostly as a writer, arranger and producer), Leroy Hutson, Mavis and the Staple Singers, Linda Clifford, the Five Stairsteps and the Natural FourCurtis composed the soundtracks to the movies, Claudine, Superfly, Sparkle and Short Eyes.  The first three are all cult classic movies, due in part to the music scored by the genius of Curtis Mayfield.  Of course a Sparkle Soundtrack album was never released.  Instead, Curtis had Aretha Franklin sing all the songs from the soundtrack and it was released as an Aretha Franklin album.  Check out the title song that definitely sold us on the movie starring an unknown actor, Ron O’Neal… this is “Superfly.”


posted by FunkSoBrudda

Curtis Lee Mayfield was born in 1942 in Chicago.  He was a great Native Son because his accomplishments did a lot for the city.  A town already rich in music history, Mayfield’s decision to stay rooted in his hometown added a new chapter to Chi-Town’s music legacy.  In 1956 Curtis joined the singing group, the Roosters, teaming up with Jerry Butler, Arthur Brooks and Richard Brooks.  By ’58 Sam Gooden had joined the group and they changed their name to the Impressions.  Their only hit with Jerry Butler aka “The Iceman,” was “For Your Precious Love,” which Jerry and the two Brooks brothers wrote.  Jerry Butler left the group soon after and was replaced by Fred CashCurtis Mayfield took over the role of Lead Singer and Songwriter.  In ’61 Curtis penned the Impressions first big hit without Jerry Butler, “Gypsy Woman.”  This song has all the storybook lingo of the late 50’s and early 60’s, singing about “all through the caravan around the campfire light… her face was all aglow, oh how she enchanted me so…”


posted by donttellmetellher

By 1962, the Arthur and Richard Brooks left the group and Curtis, Fred and Sam became the faction that took the Impressions to the height of the group’s career.  Starting the next year, in ’63, they began crankin’ out future classics like, “I’m The One Who Loves You,” “I’m So Proud,” “Amen,” “Keep On Pushing,” “You Must Believe Me,” “The Woman’s Got Soul,” “People Get Ready,” “I’ve Been Trying,” “You’ve Been Cheatin’,” “A Fool For You,” “I Loved And I Lost” and more.  What a roll!  What a string of Hits!  All these Jams were released between ’63 and ’68… 5 short years.  Oh yeah, I forgot one of the Impressions’ smash hits during this Golden Period… one of my favorites, “It’s All Right.”


posted by BenKarbie

 Jerry Butler was having his own successful solo career with hits like “Lost,” “He Will Break Your Heart,” “Moon River,” “Make It Easy On Yourself,” “Let It Be Me,” “Hey, Western Union Man,” “Never Give You Up,” and “Only The Strong Survive.”  Meanwhile, the Impressions were on fire with a string of hits that any performer would envy.  No one in their right mind would mess with this success.  In the music biz, when you manage to get a Hit record, the company usually wants you to keep more comin’ just like it.  You know, do that same song but flip it sideways or throw in a slight music variation with new lyrics… but give the people what you’ve already proven they want.  Not Curtis Mayfield.  Something veered him in the direction of socially conscious recordings… not exclusively but so much so that it would become the cornerstone of his music legacy.


posted by truedestony1 

The first Impressions hit that Curtis did not write was the Spiritual tune, “Amen.”  This song was written by Jester Hairston.  Name sound familiar?  Jester played the very old but feisty “Rolly” on the 80’s TV show, Amen (ironically), starring Sherman Hemsley and Clifton Davis.  Before that role, Jester was known for his portrayal of Henry Van Porter on the Amos & Andy TV show in the 50’s.  Jester wrote “Amen,” for the 1963 Sidney Poitier movie, Lilies Of The Field.  He also was the REAL VOICE singing “Amen,” not Sidney Poitier.  Pull up the clip on YOUTUBE and you can hear clearly that it’s ol’ “Rolly” singing because his singing voice is just like his talking voice.  Well, the Impressions sang another Spiritual song, this time written by Curtis Mayfield.  This song still moves men’s souls today.  What an incredibly beautiful song of that Special Day of Reckoning, when we all have to stand in Judgment.  Countless Rock artists have recorded this song.  You can see how the musicians playing with Curtis in this clip seem overjoyed to be performing such an Iconic song with the Music Icon who created it.  This is Curtis singing his 1965 classic, “People Get Ready.”


posted by Geepereet

Curtis was a Favorite Son of his music industry colleagues.  He was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the Impressions in ’91 and in ’99 as a solo artist; a rare double-induction.  He won the Lifetime Achievement award from the Grammy’s, is inducted into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame and the Grammy Hall of Fame as an Impression and as a solo artist“People Get Ready” was chosen as one of the Top 10 Best Songs of All Time by a panel of 20 top industry songwriters and producers, including Paul McCartney (Beatles), Brian Wilson (Beach Boys), Hal David (Burt Bacharach’s songwriting partner) and others.  Curtis Mayfield wrote hit songs for many other singers.  A small sampling is “He Will Break Your Heart” and “Need To Belong” (Jerry Butler), “Monkey Time” and “Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um” (Major Lance), “I Thank You” (Donny Hathaway & June Conquest), “Let’s Do It Again” (Staple Singers) and the hits Gladys Knight & the Pips, En Vogue and Aretha Franklin received from the movie soundtracks, Claudine and Sparkle.  Next is a song from the movie soundtrack that Curtis sang himself.  The soundtrack is Superfly.  The song… “Freddie’s Dead”… that’s what I said.

posted by sante3d

 One of Curtis’ prettiest songs came from the Claudine soundtrack.  Gladys Knight & the Pips sang this incredible song on the soundtrack for the movie starring Diahann Carroll, James Earl Jones and Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs.  What a movie!  What a soundtrack!  Enjoy Curtis Mayfield singing the soundtrack song that speaks about how invisible a person can feel when living in poverty.  The song is inspirational because the pretty chords give room for hope inside a sad song of helplessness.  In spite of the lyric, I feel really good when I listen to this song.  This is, “To Be Invisible.”

 

posted by Geepereet

In 1990, while performing on stage, some lighting equipment fell on Curtis and it paralyzed him from the waist down.  He never recovered from that injury; he sadly passed away December 6, 1999 at the age of 57.  What a legacy… what a man!  Everybody loves Curtis Mayfield.  His music means so much to each and every one of us.  We’re a better world thanks to Curtis Lee Mayfield.  1971 was still a volatile time in America but many sociological improvements had been made for Black folk thanks to the diligence of the civil rights movement and the heightened awareness and positive self-image projection brought on by socially conscious artists like Curtis Mayfield.  Blood, sweat and tears had all been shed for the sake of creating a fair, equal, united America.  To address the times, Curtis wrote this next song and placed it on his Roots album, released that year.  He wanted to assure us that the fight was not in vain, it didn’t destroy us but made us stronger.  He urged us to stay vigilant and not get lulled into apathy… but to “Keep On Keeping On.”  I’ll leave you with the 2nd verse lyrics from the song that shows that Curtis Mayfield was ever the fighter, ever the optimist, ever the hopeful warrior… forever MUSIC’s HUMAN RIGHTS AMBASSADOR.  Peace!

Yours musically,
Reuben Yabuku 

Before we dismiss, one thing I insist – When you have your young, remember this song
And our world surroundings, its leaps and bounds – Ups and downs, is reality
Teach them to be strong, and when they are grown – They can proudly imply that we were an alright guy
For all the wrong now is right – This nation’s people are now united as one

And we just keep on keeping on – We just keep on keeping on
Many think that we have blown it – But they too will soon admit
That there’s still a lot of love among us – And there’s still a lot of faith, warmth, and trust
When we keep on keeping on



posted by Funkonaut