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.

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. In 1958, they 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. In 1970, Mayfield left The Impressions for a solo career.


  • 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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