Quintessential Funk & Soul Classic: Curtis Mayfield, “SuperFly”

curtis-mayfeild

CURTIS MAYFIELD

(June 3, 1942 ~December 26, 1999)

 

The 1970s began and so did another transformative move for Mayfield – going to the movies. The period of “Blaxploitation” movies had started, films quickly produced, low budget and beamed to a black inner city audiences. They needed the right music on the soundtrack. At this time there was a not-exactly-unspoken question in Hollywood, “Can African Americans write film music?” Mayfield answered: “We showed that you didn’t need a room the size of a football field to lay music in. You didn’t have to be a Henry Mancini.” (He was now recording in a tiny demo. producing studio bought from RCA Records in Chicago).

Superfly is the third studio album by American soul musician Curtis Mayfield, released in July 1972 on Curtom Records. It was released as the soundtrack for the Blaxploitation film of the same name. Widely considered a classic of 1970s soul and funk music, Super Fly was a nearly immediate hit. Its sales were bolstered by two million-selling singles, “Freddie’s Dead” (#2 R&B, #4 Pop) and the title track (#5 R&B, #8 Pop). Super Fly is one of the few soundtracks to out-gross the film it accompanied.  

 Superfly, along with Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On, was one of the pioneering soul concept albums, with its then-unique socially aware lyrics about poverty and drug abuse making the album stand out. The film and the soundtrack may be perceived as dissonant, since the film holds rather ambiguous views on drug dealers, whereas Curtis Mayfield’s position is far more critical. Like What’s Going On, the album was a surprise hit that record executives felt had little chance at significant sales. Due to its success, Mayfield was tapped for several film soundtracks over the course of the decade.

On August 13, 1990, a devastating stage accident rendered Mayfield paralyzed from the neck down. He would be wheelchair bound for the rest of his life.  

But he continued making music.

Mayfield made his last recording, “New World Order, in 1995 after four decades of hit making as a solo artist, producer, composer and as a symbol for Black Pride and Black Capitalism within the music industry. Mayfield’s last go round in the studio was an example of courage and will. Paralyzed following an on stage accident, he recorded one line of a song at a time, lying on his back to allow his diaphragm to work and breath to get into his lungs.

“He broke his back but not his spirit,” says his widow Altheida Mayfield. Read more here at CURTIS MAYFIELD…

 

Album Tracks:

Side One
1. “Little Child Runnin’ Wild” 5:23
2. “Pusherman” 5:04
3. “Freddie’s Dead” 5:27
4. “Junkie Chase (Instrumental)” 1:36

SideTwo
1. “Give Me Your Love (Love Song)” 4:20
2. “Eddie You Should Know Better” 2:16
3. “No Thing on Me (Cocaine Song)” 4:53
4. “Think (Instrumental)” 3:43
5. “Superfly” 3:53

 

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