Born in 1942, Curtis Mayfield was ahead of his time. Performer, producer, songwriter and businessman he was more in sync with the civil rights movement than any of the other musicians of his era. “My songs were not only personal to me, they were personal to a movement..” he said in 1989. He taught himself to play guitar and later performed gospel with his friend Jerry Butler in the Northern Jubilee Singers.
In 1957 they formed the Roosters, a doo wop group. The name would change again, to the Impressions, before they scored a hit with “For Your Precious Love”. Jerry Butler, the vocalist for the song, left the group to go solo…taking Curtis along as guitarist, though he still remained with the Impressions. In 1960 Mayfield made his first hit as a songwriter and soon other singers in Chicago were turning to him to write for them.
He realized early in his career the benefits fo having financial control over his songs. So, while he was still in his teens, he formed Curtom Publishing Company with his then-manager Eddie Thomas. It later became Curtom Records as his dream of owning his own label came true. After going on his own in 1970, he gained enormous success with such hits as “Superfly”. In 1990, while performing onstage in Brooklyn, a 500 pound lighting bank fell on him, paralyzing him from the neck down. The accident ended his performing career, but he remains one of the fathers of funk to this day.