One of the things that we are most proud of at West Coast Styles is that we recognize the current state of music and culture and acknowledge veterans and cultural milestones from the past that help makes everything we have today possible. Thus, we would be remiss to overlook that today is the born day of iconic soul singer and musician Mr. Curtis Mayfield.
Hailing from Chicago, Illinois, Mayfield started singing in a gospel choir and then joined The Impressions. In 1965, the group put out their iconic hit, “People Get Ready.” In addition to being successful on the charts upon its release, the song became one of the greatest ever made. The Library of Congress even added it to the National Recording Registry for 2015.
In 1970, Mayfield left the group and went solo. And while he did achieve success with his self-titled debut album and its follow-up (Roots), 1972’s Super Fly was his third studio album, which propelled Mayfield to previously unseen heights of fame and acclaim. Serving as the soundtrack to the blaxploitation film of the same name, the music, interestingly enough, was critical of some of the social issues the film took a less critical approach to.
Following the success of Super Fly, Mayfield did lots of soundtrack work throughout the rest of the decade. By the ’80s, his output lessened (releasing only seven albums in those ten years compared to seventeen in the one prior). However, he did continue to tour.
Then, in 1990, he became paralyzed from the neck down after equipment fell on him at a concert. While the accident kept him from playing guitar, he still was able to create music. He even recorded his final album, 1996’s New World Order, while lying on his back. Mayfield died in 1999 as a result of Type 2 Diabetes complications.
Curtis Mayfield’s music is a perfect example of the power of music and how it can genuinely paint pictures with words and sounds. And it is through those pictures; perspectives are shaped and ultimately affect the world in which we live. And because there was no better “photographer” than Mayfield, it is no surprise that his body of work always has and will continue to influence musicians and singers for generations to come. In addition to shaping the sounds of multiple musicians and singers, his music has also gotten sampled in rap. A few (of many) examples being Ice-T (“I’m Your Pusher”), Kanye West (“Touch the Sky”), and Jay-Z (American Gangster”).
Happy Born Day to Mr. Curtis Mayfield
May he Rest In Peace as his music continues to inspire us all
(June 3, 1942 – December 26, 1999)