Top 10 Curtis Mayfield Songs

Curtis Mayfield Songs

Photo: AVRO, CC BY-SA 3.0 NL <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/nl/deed.en>, via Wikimedia Commons

Our top 10 Curtis Mayfield songs list looks back at the songs of one of the most dynamic and soulful songwriters and performers of the 1960s and 70s. Curtis Mayfield’s career started in the 1960’s with the group The Impressions. Like many of his contemporaries, Mayfield’s performing career started with gospel music. Whereas many soul performers lyrical concerns where mainly centered on the romantic and good time themes, Mayfield was among the first to bring socially conscious ideologies into the Soul genre. The first track of this kind that he wrote was “People Get Ready” in 1965 with The Impressions which has received much praise and accolades in the decades since its release.

Mayfield left The Impressions in 1970 to pursue a solo career. One of the most crucial albums that he released over the following decade was the soundtrack to the Blaxploitation film Superfly in 1972. This record’s lyrics included a lot of themes centered around things such as poverty, crime and drug abuse.

In 1990, Mayfield suffered an accident which left him paralyzed from the neck down. This did not stop him from continuing with his career, with him releasing his final album in 1996. In 1994 he won a Grammy Legend Award and then a Lifetime Achievement Award the following year. He is also a double inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame both as a solo artist and with The Impressions. He died in 1999 due to complications from Type 2 Diabetes.

# 10 – New World Order

Kicking off this Curtis Mayfield songs list is the title track of Mayfield’s final album released in 1996. The album reached number twenty-four on the Billboard R&B charts as well as number forty-four on the UK album charts. It was the only album that Mayfield recorded after his accident before his death three years later. This track was released as one of the singles from the record. The song “New World Order,” reached number fourteen on the Billboard Adult R&B charts.

# 9– Tripping Out

Next on the list of Curtis Mayfield songs we have a track from 1980’s Something to Believe In. It is not one of Mayfield’s typical kind of songs in the sense that it is a romantic song rather than a political one. After leaving the Curtom label at the end of the seventies, Mayfield’s days of being a massive chart success effectively came to an end. However, he did continue to tour and record consistently until his accident in 1990.

# 8 – She Don’t Let Nobody But Me

Next is a track from Mayfield’s 1982 album Love is the Place. It was the first single to be taken from the album and reached number fifteen on the Billboard Hot Soul Singles chart. In 1993 Jamaican reggae due Chaka Demus and Pliers recorded a cover of the song. This version was commercially successful, reaching number four in the United Kingdom.

# 7 – If I Were Only A Child Again

Up next, we have a cut from 1973’s Back to the World, an album that reached number sixteen on the Billboard 200 and topped the R&B/Hip-Hop Charts. This is a track that seems like a feel-good song on the surface but when looking further at the lyrics, the track clearly taps into the disillusionment felt by many after the Vietnam War.

# 6 – (Don’t Worry) If There’s A Hell Below, Were All Going To Go

At the number 6 spot on our Curtis Mayfield songs list is a track that is also from Curtis. Mayfield wrote the song with the intention of warning people of the consequences of growing racial tensions in the U.S. Starting with an introduction with a woman quoting the Book of Revelations, the song then descends into a smooth funky number which is sublime in both its lyrical and musical aspects.

# 5 – Give Me Your Love (Love Song)

At number five we have another song from the Superfly soundtrack. This album is widely considered to be one of the all-time greatest Soul records. With two million- selling singles being released from it, it is one of the few soundtracks to outgross the movie itself in terms of commercial success.

# 4 – Freddie’s Dead

Curtis Mayfield’s song Freddie’s Dead was ne of the biggest songs released from the Superfly soundtrack. This was released as a single before both the release of the album and the film entering theatres. It was massively commercially successful, reaching number four on US Billboard Hot 100 and number two on the R&B chart. It also ranked at number eighty-two on top 100 billboard tracks of 1972. The song’s instrumental arrangement appears frequently throughout the film which has led to it often being dubbed “The theme from Superfly”. It was nominated for a Grammy Award for best R&B song but lost to The Temptations “Pappa Was A Rolling Stone.”

# 3- Keep On Keeping On

This track is taken from Mayfield’s second album released in 1971 titled Roots. The album was very well received upon its release, being regarded a classic of both Mayfield’s career and the seventies Soul era as a whole. It was also very commercially successful, reaching number six on the Billboard’s Top R&B charts. Mayfield delivered a particularly brilliant performance of this track on the British BBC music programme “The Old Grey Whistle Test.”

# 2 – Superfly

Here we have the title track of Mayfield’s soundtrack to the 1972 film of the same name. It was the record’s second single and reached number eight on the Billboard Hot 100 and number five on the Best-Selling Soul Singles chart. In the film, it plays over the closing credits. It was covered by the Canadian soul band jacksoul on the album mySOUL and was also sampled by Outkast on their track “Return of the G.”

# 1 – Move On Up

Now we have a stone-cold classic track taken from Mayfield’s self-titled debut Curtis released in 1970. The version featured on the album is likely one of the longest soul numbers ever recorded clocking in at nine minutes long. Unbelievably, it failed to chart in the U.S. after an edited version was released as a single. However, it did spend ten weeks on the top 50 of the UK singles charts, with its highest position being at number twelve. A song which has become one of the all-time classic soul tracks over the years, it has been covered by bands as diverse as The Jam and My Morning Jacket.

 

 

 

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