Week 3: Curtis Mayfield (#98)

I was raised with exposure to music of many decades, listening to 50s, 60s and 70s music while road-tripping on summer vacations in the 80s. (A friend once asked me, “Where do you drive that you know all these songs?” It is literally because of all the driving that I memorized so many songs.

My experience sadly did not range far beyond popular doo-wop, rockabilly and disco, which this week’s artist, Curtis Mayfield, is decidedly not. His music is totally new to me – though the sounds were recognizable from Mayfield’s heirs in 90s rock. If you love bass lines that rumble your floor and make you boogie, this is your guy!  If you want to understand the Black experience in the 70s, then this is also a great opportunity to do so.  Mr. Mayfield had a clear voice and point of view.

While I would not describe this music as containing explicit content, per se, listen out for the occasional word you might need to talk to your kids about.  For example, in the beginning of “(Don’t Worry) If There’s a Hell Below We’re All Going to Go” the intro calls out many kinds of people, including the in-group marker usage of the n-word.

Read Boz Scaggs’ reflections on the Curtis Mayfield and his impact on music here: Rolling Stone Top 100 Artists: Curtis Mayfield

  • What musicians do you think were influenced by Curtis Mayfield?  I can think of a few whose sounds descend from these!
  • Do you hear any messages that surprised you?
  • How does this style of music (so different from the artists of Week 1 and Week 2) make you feel?

Share your responses in our discussion board! Learn more about the Music Project by clicking here.

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