14 years ago, on December 26, 1999 (just a day shy from the passing of James Brown), we lost another legend: Curtis “Superfly” Mayfield. The former The Impressions frontman (alongside Jerry Butler) played a pivotal role in injecting social awareness into the rhythm and blues genre (see: “(Don’t Worry) If There’s A Hell Below We’re All Going To Go“, “Underground” or “Power to the People“).
Just like his counterparts Al Green, Marvin Gaye, Isaac Hayes, et al., the two-time Grammy Hall of Fame inductee, actor, social/civil rights activist and Grammy Legend-awardee’s long list of hits, singles and B-sides also laid down the cornerstones of some of Hip-Hop’s greatest songs.
Below is a short clip of Curtis Mayfield who, alongside Freddy Fender, sing “Doo Doo Wop Is Strong In Here.” Curtis not only starred in the film Short Eyes (which I’d recommend everyone see), but he also scored the entire film’s soundtrack, and as one can imagine, is a great album in itself, with cuts like “Back Against The Wall” and “Short Eyes / Freak, Freak, Free, Free, Free“.
I’ll end this post with one of my favorite songs from Curtis, “Here But I’m Gone”, a truly touching song which was a part of his New World Order recording sessions which would serve as his last album before his death on Dec. 26, 1999. Those recording sessions would ultimately be recorded while he lay paralyzed after the 1990 freak accident when “an unstable scaffold of overhead stage lights… sent the tower crashing down on him.” Curtis, who was left paralyzed from the neck down, still pushed on and recorded the entire album, line-by-line all the while laying bed-ridden.
Rest easy, Curtis. We got you.