Curtis Mayfield Jukebox
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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, and drums. Mayfield is a winner of both the Grammy Legend Award (in 1994) and the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award (in 1995), and he 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.Born on June 3, 1942 in Chicago, Illinois, Mayfield was the son of Marion Washington and Kenneth Mayfield. Mayfield's father left the family when Mayfield was five and his mother moved Curtis and his siblings into various Chicago projects before settling at the Cabrini–Green projects when Mayfield reached his teenage years. Mayfield attended Wells Community Academy High School. He dropped out of high school early to become 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 injecting social commentary into their work. This "message music" became extremely popular during the 1960s and 1970s.
Two significant characteristics distinguish Mayfield's sound. First, he taught himself how to play guitar, tuning it to the black keys of the piano, thus giving him an open F-sharp tuning—F#, A#, C#, F#, A#, F#---that he used throughout his career. Second, he primarily sang in falsetto register, adding another flavor to his music. This was not unique in itself, but most singers sing primarily in the modal register.
Mayfield's career began in 1956 when he joined The Roosters with Arthur and Richard Brooks and Jerry Butler. Two years later The Roosters, now including also Sam Gooden, became The Impressions. The band had one big hit with "For Your Precious Love". After Butler left the group and was replaced with Fred Cash, (a returning original Roosters member), Mayfield became lead singer, frequently composing for the band, starting with "Gypsy Woman", a Top 20 Pop hit. Their hit "Amen," (Top 10), an updated version of an old gospel tune, was included in the soundtrack of the 1963 MGM film Lilies of the Field, which starred Sidney Poitier. The Impressions reached the height of their popularity in the mid-to-late-'60s with a string of Mayfield compositions that included "Keep on Pushing," "People Get Ready", "It's All Right" (Top 10), the uptempo "Talking about My Baby"(Top 20), "Woman's Got Soul", "Choice of Colors,"(Top 20), "Fool For You," "This is My Country" and "Check Out Your Mind." Mayfield had written much of the soundtrack of the civil rights movement in the early 1960s, but by the end of the decade he was a pioneering voice in the black pride movement along with James Brown and Sly Stone. Mayfield's "We're a Winner", a Number 1 soul hit which also reached the Billboard pop Top 20, became an anthem of the black power and black pride movements when it was released in late 1967, much as his earlier "Keep on Pushing" (whose title is quoted in the lyrics of "We're a Winner" and also in "Move On Up") had been an anthem for Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement.