Curtis Mayfield entered the world on June 3, 1942, and got his start in music by singing with his grandmothers' church choir in their hometown of Chicago. He taught himself how to play the guitar and as a teenager started the gospel and soul group the Alphatones, for which he composed music and lyrics.
In 1956, Mayfield met Jerry Butler, who invited him to join a band called the Roosters. After their song "For Your Precious Love" hit number 11 on the charts, the members renamed themselves the Impressions. Mayfield became the lead singer after Butler left to pursue a solo career.
During the '60s, Mayfield put his multiple talents to work composing, producing, playing the guitar and, of course, singing. But, unlike other recording artists of the day, he introduced a racial and political element in songs such as "Keep on Pushing" and "People Get Ready."
Mayfield went out on his own in 1970 and two years later embarked on the project for which he is perhaps best known — the soundtrack to "Superfly," which spent a month as the number-one album. He also produced other well-known artists like Aretha Franklin.
In 1990, Mayfield was left paralyzed when a lighting scaffold fell on him during an outdoor concert but continued to compose and record. He won a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1996. His health continued to deteriorate, however, and on Dec. 26, 1999, Mayfield died at the age of 57, soon after being inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
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