Curtis Mayfield: Soul Move On Up

Curtis Mayfield songs
Curtis Mayfield | Shutterstock

Dive Into the Soulful Tunes of Curtis Mayfield

When you mix a velvety voice with infectious melodies and lyrics that take a stand against societal norms, you find yourself deep in the soulful universe of Curtis Mayfield. This iconic figure in soul music enchanted audiences in the 1960s and 70s with his groundbreaking sound. Let’s embark on a journey through Mayfield’s musical legacy, from his beginnings with The Impressions to his influential solo career, highlighting his most celebrated tracks and the stories behind them.

The Impressions Era: A Musical Foundation

Curtis Mayfield’s journey into music started with The Impressions, a group that emerged from Chicago in the late 1950s. Along with Jerry Butler, Sam Gooden, and the Brooks brothers, Arthur and Richard, Mayfield blended doo-wop, R&B, and gospel into their music. His signature guitar style soon became a defining element of their sound. Here, we dive into some key tracks from this era:

“Gypsy Woman” (1961)

This track showcased Mayfield’s exceptional guitar prowess and smooth vocals, setting the stage for the group’s evolving sound.

“It’s All Right” (1963)

Becoming a massive hit, this song was celebrated for its feel-good energy and remains a soulful anthem of positivity.

“People Get Ready” (1965)

A masterpiece that weaves messages of hope and solidarity, this song solidified Mayfield’s commitment to blending music with social consciousness.

Solo Mastery: Superfly and More

In 1970, Mayfield embarked on a solo journey, deepening his exploration of social justice, love, and the human condition. His solo work includes:


The 1972 film’s title track mixed funky rhythms with sharp social commentary, capturing the complexities of urban life. “Superfly” the song and the Superfly soundtrack are both classics that catapulted the Blaxploitation film genre into a mainstay of 70’s film and music. Learn more here. 

“Move On Up”

An anthem of resilience and hope, this song encourages perseverance against the odds.

“Freddie’s Dead”

From the “Superfly” soundtrack, this track offers a somber reflection on the impact of drug addiction.


This song further narrates the “Superfly” saga, delving into urban struggles with an engaging narrative.

“Give Me Your Love”

A sensual track from the “Superfly” album that highlights Mayfield’s range as an artist.

 “Kung Fu”

This track displays Mayfield’s playful experimentation with rhythm and sound.

A Lasting Musical Influence

Curtis Mayfield’s legacy continues to resonate through his music’s lasting impact. His lyrics, imbued with social consciousness, have inspired countless musicians to address significant issues in their art. Mayfield’s innovative fusion of gospel, funk, and R&B set him apart and influenced various artists across genres. Modern artists continually sample his work, attesting to his enduring relevance and influence.

Cross-Genre Impact

Mayfield’s music didn’t just stay within soul boundaries; it crossed over into rock, hip-hop, and more, highlighting his versatile appeal and lasting legacy. Through his innovative sound and poignant lyrics, Mayfield paved the way for future generations, proving music’s power to transcend genres and initiate change.

Curtis Mayfield was a true pioneer in soul music, using his platform to explore and address the complexities of life and society. His unique sound and commitment to lyrical depth have left an indelible mark on the music industry. For those discovering his music for the first time or longtime fans revisiting his classics, Mayfield’s songs continue to inspire and captivate, offering a timeless journey through the heart of soul music.


FAQ: Curtis Mayfield’s Musical Legacy

Which Ice-T song samples Curtis Mayfield’s “Pusherman”?

Ice-T’s song “I’m Your Pusher” from his 1988 album “Power” samples Curtis Mayfield’s iconic track “Pusherman.”

Who played bongos on “Move On Up” by Curtis Mayfield?

Master percussionist Master Henry Gibson played the bongos on “Move On Up” by Curtis Mayfield. Gibson’s contribution is one of the defining features of this uplifting track, adding a dynamic layer to its rhythmic complexity.

Is Curtis Mayfield still alive?

Curtis Mayfield passed away on December 26, 1999. His music and influence, however, continue to live on, inspiring generations of musicians and fans alike.

How tall was Curtis Mayfield?

Curtis Mayfield was approximately 5 feet 9 inches (175 cm) tall. His stature was complemented by his monumental talent and presence in the music world.

How to play Curtis Mayfield’s guitar style?

Curtis Mayfield’s guitar style is unique, characterized by its gentle, rhythmic finger-picking and use of minor-seventh chords. Learning to play like Mayfield involves mastering these techniques and incorporating a deep sense of soul and rhythm into your playing.

What album is “Diamond in the Back” by Curtis Mayfield on?

The song commonly referred to as “Diamond in the Back” is actually titled “Be Thankful for What You Got” and was performed by William DeVaughn, not Curtis Mayfield. However, Mayfield’s influence is evident in the style and themes of the song.

How old was Curtis Mayfield?

Curtis Mayfield was born on June 3, 1942, and passed away on December 26, 1999, at the age of 57.

Who sampled Curtis Mayfield?

Many artists have sampled Curtis Mayfield across multiple genres, including Kanye West, The Notorious B.I.G., Ice-T, etc. His music’s timeless quality and deep, soulful essence make it a rich source for sampling in contemporary music.


More from BOB FM

To Top