Curtis Mayfield

Curtis Mayfield (June 3, 1942 — Dec. 26, 1999) was an American soul-funk musician, composer, and producer from Chicago who co-founded The Impressions in 1958 and served as the group’s lead vocalist and musical director for 12 years.

Early Life

He was born Curtis Lee Mayfield on June 3, 1942, one of five children. He was raised by his mother and maternal grandmother in Chicago’s housing projects, where he learned piano and sang with the Northern Jubilee Gospel Singers. As a tween, he taught himself guitar, influenced by bluesman Muddy Waters and Spanish classical guitarist Andres Segovia.

Mayfield formed his first group, The Alphatones, in 1956 at age 14. The following year, he joined The Roosters with fellow ex-Northern Jubilee Gospel singer Jerry Butler.

The Impressions

In 1958, The Alphatones changed their name to The Impressions and signed to Vee-Jay Records, scoring hits with “For Your Precious Love” and “Come Back My Love.” After Butler’s 1960 departure for a solo career, Mayfield — after co-writing and playing guitar on Butler’s first solo hit “He Will Break Your Heart” — became the group’s new frontman and songwriter.

Between 1961 and 1966, Mayfield led The Impressions through a string of soul-pop hits on ABC-Paramount, including “Gypsy Woman,” “Keep On Pushing,” “It’s All Right,” and “People Get Ready.” He also wrote and arranged songs for Jan Bradley (“Mama Didn’t Lie”), Major Lance (“Um,Um,Um,Um,Um,Um,” “The Monkey Time”), and further hits for Butler (“He Will Break Your Heart,” “Find Another Girl,” “I’m A-Tellin’ You”).

In 1968, Mayfield co-founded Curtom Records and steered The Impressions into album-oriented maximalist soul on their seminal release This Is My Country and its 1969 followup The Young Mods’ Forgotten Story. During this period, Mayfield’s songs were covered by artists as diverse as Aretha Franklin, The Hollies, Vanilla Fudge, and The Bards. After the completion of the 1970 Impressions release Check Out Your Mind, Mayfield left the group for a solo career.


Curtis Mayfield released his debut solo album, Curtis, in September 1970 on Curtom.

Curtis/Live! (1971)


Curtis Mayfield released his second solo album, Roots, in October 1971 on Curtom.


On July 11, 1972, Curtis Mayfield released Superfly, the soundtrack to the titlesake Blaxploitation film starring Ron O’Neal.

Back to the World

Curtis Mayfield released his fourth studio album, Back to the World, in May 1973 on Curtom.

Curtis in Chicago (live, 1973)

Claudine – Gladys Knight & the Pips 

Sweet Exorcist

Curtis Mayfield released his fifth solo studio album, Sweet Exorcist, in May 1974 on Curtom.

Got to Find a Way

Curtis Mayfield released his sixth solo studio album, Got to Find a Way, in November 1974 on Curtom.

Let’s Do It Again

The Staple Singers & Curtis Mayfield

There’s No Place Like America Today

Curtis Mayfield released his seventh solo studio album, There’s No Place Like America Today, in May 1975 on Curtom.

Give, Get, Take and Have

Curtis Mayfield released his eighth solo studio album, Give, Get, Take and Have, in June 1976 on Curtom.

Aretha Franklin Sparkle soundtrack

Never Say You Can’t Survive

Curtis Mayfield released his ninth solo studio album, Never Say You Can’t Survive, in February 1977 on Curtom.

Short Eyes

In October 1977, Curtis Mayfield released Short Eyes, the soundtrack to the title-sake prison drama by playwright Miguel Piñero.

Mavis Staples – A Piece of the Action

Do It All Night

Curtis Mayfield released his eleventh solo studio album, Do It All Night, in July 1978 on Curtom.


  • Curtis (1970)
  • Roots (1971 • Curtis)
  • Curtis/Live! (1971)
  • Superfly (OST, 1972)
  • Back to the World (1973)
  • Curtis in Chicago (live, 1973)
  • Sweet Exorcist (1974)
  • Got to Find a Way (1974)
  • Let’s Do It Again (OST, 1975 • The Staple Singers & Curtis Mayfield)
  • There’s No Place Like America Today (1975)
  • Give, Get, Take and Have (1976)
  • Short Eyes (OST, 1977)
  • Never Say You Can’t Survive (1977)
  • Do It All Night (1978)
  • Heartbeat (1979)
  • The Right Combination (1980 • Linda Clifford & Curtis Mayfield)
  • Something to Believe In (1980)
  • Love Is the Place (1981)
  • Honesty (1982)
  • We Come in Peace With a Message of Love (1985)


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