If you’re familiar with songs like Move On Up, Superfly, and Stone Junkie, then you would know who Curtis Mayfield is. He is one of the most influential and politically conscious soul musicians out there. But what happened after his life-changing accident?
Following an accident in 1990, Curtis Mayfield was paralyzed from the neck down. He then discovered that he could sing phenomenally lying down while gravity pulled on his chest and lungs. He was able to record an album and release it in the late 90s.
Who is Curtis Mayfield?
Curtis Lee Mayfield was an African American singer, songwriter, producer, and musician. During the height of his career, he was one of the influential names in the genre.
Mayfield was born on June 3, 1942, in Chicago, Illinois. He attended the Wells Community Academy High School but dropped out by his second year. His mother and grandmother taught him to play the piano and encouraged him to join their church’s choir. At the age of 7, he publicly sang at his aunt’s church and the Northern Jubilee Gospel Singers.
At the age of 10, he received his first guitar. He loved it so much that he would go to bed with it. He taught himself how to play by watching musicians like Muddy Waters and Andres Segovia. When he turned 14, he formed the Alphatones when the Northern Jubilee Gospel Singers left for downtown Chicago.
Mayfield’s career took off in 1956 when he joined a group with Jerry Butler, Arthur, and Richard Brooks called The Roosters. The group then evolved to The Impressions with the addition of the new member Sam Gooden.
In 1970, Mayfield began his solo career and left The Impressions. His first album in his solo career hit the top 20 of the charts and was recognized for hits critical success.
He was nominated for several awards throughout the years but won two Grammys: A Legend Award and the Lifetime Achievement Award. (Source: All Music)
Mayfield the Social Activist
Since Mayfield was very open about civil rights and black pride that he was the first person to introduce social consciousness into African-American music.
His most affecting songs carried the optimism and conviction of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s most celebrated sermons. His music was a major influence on many of today’s most influential rap and hip-hop stars, from Lauryn Hill to Public Enemy.Robert Hilburn, Los Angeles Times
(Source: Curtis Mayfield)
How Did He Get Paralyzed?
On August 13, 1990, stage lighting equipment fell on Mayfield while being introduced at a concert in Wingate Field in Brooklyn. He was unable to play any instruments, but he was still able to sing really well. During this time, he didn’t let his injuries stop his music. He went on to compose and sing. By 1996 he was able to release his album New World Order. (Source: LA Times)
Where is Curtis Mayfield Today?
Aside from managing his paralysis, Mayfield also had Type 2 Diabetes. In 1998, they had to amputate his right leg due to the disease. In 1999, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but he was not able to attend the ceremony because of his health issues.
His last public appearance was with the group Bran Van 3000 in the year 2000. He passed away in 2001 due to his declining health. (Source: The Jet)