December 26th in African American History – Curtis Lee Mayfield

December 26, 1999 Curtis Lee Mayfield, singer, songwriter and record producer, died.

Mayfield was born June 3, 1942 in Chicago, Illinois. In 1954, Mayfield dropped out of school and joined The Roosters who two years later became The Impressions. When Jerry Butler left the group, Mayfield became the lead singer. The Impressions were successful with a string of Mayfield composions, including “Gypsy Woman” (1961), “Keep on Pushing” (1964), “People Get Ready” (1965), and “Check Out Your Mind” (1970).

Mayfield also wrote and produced scores of hits for other artists, including Jerry Butler’s “He Will Break Your Heart” (1960), Gene Chandler’s “Bless Our Love” (1964), The Staple Singers’ “Let’s Do It Again” (1975), and Aretha Franklin’s “Something He Can Feel” (1976). In 1970, Mayfield left The Impressions to begin a solo career and to found an independent record label. In 1972, he released the album “Super Fly” which was the soundtrack for the film of the same title and one of the most influential albums in history. It is listed at 69 on Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

This led to other movie soundtracks, including “Claudine” (1974), “Sparkle” (1976), and “A Piece of the Action” (1977). On August 13, 1990, Mayfield was paralyzed after stage lighting fell on him at an outdoor concert. Mayfield received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1995 and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999. He was posthumously inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2000 and as a member of The Impressions was inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2003.

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