Curtis Mayfield (1942-1999) 来自芝加哥,他最有名的事迹就是与 Jerry Butler 在 50 年代后期组了一个名为 The Impressions 的灵魂乐团.1958 年 Jerry Butler 在 The Impressions 发行一首畅销单曲 For Your Precious Love 后,便单飞离去,留下来的 Curtis Mayfield 则带领 The Impressions 继续努力, 1961 年他们终于产生首支 Top 20 单曲 Gypsy Woman.Curtis Mayfield 在芝加哥与一流的乐手合作,例如 Gene Chandler, Jerry Butler, Major Lance 与 Billy Butler,他可与 Smokey Robinson 相提并论,他们不但都是优秀的歌手,还为其他乐手写词谱曲.进入流行音乐前,受福音与 doo wop 音乐影响甚巨, Curtis Mayfield 也将铿锵有声的管乐与拉丁风味的旋律注入芝加哥灵魂乐,形成独树一格的特色, Mayfield身兼乐团主唱与吉他手,在他的带领下, The Impressions 在 60 年代交出 14 首 Top 40 的亮眼成绩,光是 1964 这一年就有 5 首歌进入 Top 20.因此不令人意外地, 1970 年他离开 The Impressions,展开单飞的个人音乐生涯,发行单曲如 (Don't Worry) If There's a Hell Below, We're All Gonna Go 等皆具有浓厚的 funk 色彩,这些歌曲在当时都不太容易找到相同的曲风,所以不太引人注意.直到 1972 年,他为一部关于黑人被剥削为主题的电影 Super Fly 制作配乐,毒品交易,枪击事件,年轻黑人横死街头的事实深刻地融入剧情,此外透过 Curtis Mayfield 压抑不住的假音唱腔,高亢的旋律,加上悠扬的 funk pop 曲风,简直是相得益彰,除了 Curtis Mayfield 外,恐怕找不出能为这部电影制作配乐的第二人.Super Fly 立刻获得成功,加上 Curtis Mayfield 先前十多年在音乐上的努力,乐评家们一致认为 Super Fly为 Curtis Mayfield 创造了音乐生涯的最高峰,此时期除了 Mayfield 外,另外被大众肯定的黑人音乐大师还有 Stevie Wonder 与 Marvin Gaye.可能是由于Super Fly 太优秀的关系, Curtis Mayfield后来发行的专辑均无法突破这个超高标竿,虽然偶有小品佳作如 Kung Fu, So in Love 与 Only You Babe 等. 1990 年 8 月 14 日, Mayfield在纽约的一场现场表演中被意外落下的灯具砸中头部,从此便瘫痪不起,许多巨星如 Eric Clapton, Bruce Springsteen 与 Gladys Knight 纷纷加入阵容,制作向他致意的专辑,足见 Mayfield 在音乐上的成就与影响力. 1999 年 12 月 26 日 Curtis Mayfield 逝世,享年 57 岁. Perhaps because he didnt cross over to the pop audience as heavily as Motowns stars, it may be that the scope of Curtis Mayfields talents and contributions have yet to be fully recognized. Judged merely by his records alone, the mans legacy is enormous. As the leader of the Impressions, he recorded some of the finest soul vocal group music of the 1960s. As a solo artist in the 1970s, he helped pioneer funk and helped introduce hard-hitting urban commentary into soul music. Gypsy Woman, Its All Right, People Get Ready, Freddies Dead, and Superfly are merely the most famous of his many hit records.But Curtis Mayfield wasnt just a singer. He wrote most of his material at a time when that was not the norm for soul performers. He was among the first — if not the very first — to speak openly about African-American pride and community struggle in his compositions. As a songwriter and a producer, he was a key architect of Chicago soul, penning material and working on sessions by notable Windy City soulsters like Gene Chandler, Jerry Butler, Major Lance, and Billy Butler. In this sense, he can be compared to Smokey Robinson, who also managed to find time to write and produce many classics for other soul stars. Mayfield was also an excellent guitarist, and his rolling, Latin-influenced lines were highlights of the Impressions recordings in the 60s. During the next decade, he would toughen up his guitar work and production, incorporating some of the best features of psychedelic rock and funk.Mayfield began his career as an associate of Jerry Butler, with whom he formed the Impressions in the late 50s. After the Impressions had a big hit in 1958 with For Your Precious Love, Butler, who had sung lead on the record, split to start a solo career. Mayfield, while keeping the Impressions together, continued to write for and tour with Butler before the Impressions got their first Top 20 hit in 1961, Gypsy Woman.Mayfield was heavily steeped in gospel music before he entered the pop arena, and gospel, as well as doo wop, influences would figure prominently in most of his 60s work. Mayfield wasnt a staunch traditionalist, however. He and the Impressions may have often worked the call-and-response gospel style, but his songs (romantic and otherwise) were often veiled or unveiled messages of black pride, reflecting the increased confidence and self-determination of the African-American community. Musically he was an innovator as well, using arrangements that employed the punchy, blaring horns and Latin-influenced rhythms that came to be trademark flourishes of Chicago soul. As the staff producer for the OKeh label, Mayfield was also instrumental in lending his talents to the work of other Chi-town soul singers who went on to national success. With Mayfield singing lead and playing guitar, the Impressions had 14 Top 40 hits in the 1960s (five made the Top 20 in 1964 alone), and released some above-average albums during that period as well.Given Mayfields prodigious talents, it was perhaps inevitable that he would eventually leave the Impressions to begin a solo career, as he did in 1970. His first few singles boasted a harder, more funk-driven sound; singles like (Dont Worry) If Theres a Hell Below, Were All Gonna Go found him confronting ghetto life with a realism that had rarely been heard on record. He really didnt hit his artistic or commercial stride as a solo artist, though, until Superfly, his soundtrack to a 1972 blaxploitation film. Drug deals, ghetto shootings, the death of young black men before their time: all were described in penetrating detail. Yet Mayfields irrepressible falsetto vocals, uplifting melodies, and fabulous funk pop arrangements gave the oft-moralizing material a graceful strength that few others could have achieved. For all the glory of his past work, Superfly stands as his crowning achievement, not to mention a much-needed counterpoint to the sensationalistic portrayals of the film itself.At this point Mayfield, along with Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye, was the foremost exponent of a new level of compelling auteurism in soul. His failure to maintain the standards of Superfly qualifies as one of the great disappointments in the history of black popular music. Perhaps hed simply reached his peak after a long climb, but the rest of his 70s work didnt match the musical brilliance and lyrical subtleties of Superfly, although he had a few large R&B hits in a much more conventional vein, such as Kung Fu, So in Love, and Only You Babe.Mayfield had a couple of hits in the early 80s, but the decade generally found his commercial fortunes in a steady downward spiral, despite some intermittent albums. On August 14, 1990, he became paralyzed from the neck down when a lighting rig fell on top of him at a concert in Brooklyn, NY. In the mid-90s, a couple of tribute albums consisting of Mayfield covers appeared, with contributions by such superstars as Eric Clapton, Bruce Springsteen, and Gladys Knight. Though no substitute for the man himself, these tributes served as an indication of the enormous regard in which Mayfield was still held by his peers. He died December 26, 1999 at the age of 57.