102. Curtis Mayfield

Curtis Mayfield stayed below the radar during my younger years. In my neighborhood, as wordly and educated as I’d like to think we were, we didn’t listen to KDIA, 1310 AM, which in the 60s and 70s was the primary soul station in the Bay Area. Curtis Mayfield’s music, both with the Impressions and as a solo performer, only made occasional airplay on the big pop stations. As the years went by, I learned more of his songs, and now hold him in the highest regard. He is the old school of soul, a singer, songwriter and guitarist at once, something never found in modern music. At times sweet and loving, at others political and angry, he is a great example of the late 20th century storytelling style I love.

Curtis Mayfield is a great success story. Read the story in Wikipedia:

The Great Curtis Mayfield

There are no videos of his early work with singer Jerry Butler and his band The Impressions, but they made a couple hits together before Jerry Butler left to start a solo career. Here’s a cheezy TV appearance where they lip-sync “It’s All Right”:

That’s Curtis on the left. Here is a fine performance of “Pusherman”, from the Superfly soundtrack:

“Freddie’s Dead”, from the Superfly soundtrack:

There are several good videos of “People Get Ready”, perhaps Mayfield’s greatest song. The lyrics are ambiguously religious, and are sure to evoke different feelings for different listeners, the highest compliment that can be given.

The list of songs:

He Will Break Your Heart, Jerry Butler ✭✭✭✭
For Your Precious Love, Jerry Butler ✭✭

People Get Ready, Curtis Mayfield ✭✭✭✭
Gypsy Woman, Curtis Mayfield ✭✭✭✭

It’s All Right, Curtis Mayfield ✭✭✭
Pusherman, Curtis Mayfield ✭✭✭
Pusherman (Alt), Curtis Mayfield ✭✭✭

I’m So Proud, Curtis Mayfield ✭✭
Keep On Pushing, Curtis Mayfield ✭✭
Woman’s Got Soul, Curtis Mayfield ✭✭
We’re A Winner, Curtis Mayfield ✭✭
People Get Ready (Live), Curtis Mayfield ✭✭
The Makings Of You (Live), Curtis Mayfield ✭✭
So In Love, Curtis Mayfield ✭✭
Move On Up, Curtis Mayfield ✭✭
We Got To Have Peace, Curtis Mayfield ✭✭
Freddie’s Dead (Theme From “Superfly”), Curtis Mayfield ✭✭
Superfly, Curtis Mayfield ✭✭

I Loved And I Lost, The Impressions ✭✭

Some of the songs should be properly attributed to Curtis Mayfield & The Impressions, or Jerry Butler & The Impressions, but I removed The Impressions from the title, just to keep the songs together in the collection, when sorting by artist.

The live versions of “People Get Ready” and “The Makings Of You” are from Curtis/Live, recorded at the Bitter End in New York City. The alternate version of Pusherman includes horns in the instrumental section.

Related Songs:

Make It Easy On Yourself, Jerry Butler ✭✭
Only The Strong Survive, Jerry Butler ✭✭

Make It Easy On Yourself, The Walker Brothers ✭✭
People Get Ready, The Chambers Brothers ✭✭

One thought on “102. Curtis Mayfield

  1. Richard Supan March 9, 2010 / 5:32 AM

    I never had a chance to see Curtis Mayfield or the Impressions in person, a huge regret! However, Soul Train originated in Chicago and Curtis was a frequent guest over the years.

    A memory of Curtis Mayfield’s music that I had not thought of in many years.

    My High School basketball team at a very good season my senior year. We had Pom Pom Girls, Cheerleaders, and Lettergirls at the games. We packed the gym every league game during the year. At halftime, the Lettergirls performed a routine to Curtis Mayfield’s “If There Is A Hell Below (We Are All Going To Go)” The crowd would just go nuts during it, a very fast tune and played at high volume! We would wait until they finished the routine before going back on the court. We usually played very well in the 2nd half and I think Curtis Mayfield (and all of our fans and cheerleader groups) had a lot to do with it.

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