The celebration of June’s national African-American Music Appreciation Month continues at the ”Free Fridays” concert series in downtown Gainesville Friday, June 23 at 8 p.m. with a tribute to the music of Curtis Mayfield.
Curtis Mayfield was a legendary musical artist who had a profound impact on politically and socially conscious African-American music. An accomplished singer-songwriter and excellent guitarist, Mayfield first rose to fame in the late ‘50s and in the ‘60s as a member of the doo-wop, soul, gospel and R&B vocal group, The Impressions. Many of Mayfield’s songs became inspirational anthems for the civil rights movement, including his 1965 hit “People Get Ready.” The song is ranked number 24 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
In 1970, Mayfield left The Impressions and embarked on a solo career highlighted by his soundtrack for the 1972 blaxploitation film “Super Fly.” The soundtrack was noted for exploring many of the social issues of the time that plagued inner cities. The soundtrack album ranks number 72 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. Mayfield was twice inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for both The Impressions and as a solo artist. He also won a Grammy Legend Award in 1994 and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1995.
Mayfield was paralyzed in 1990 from his neck down when a lighting rig fell on him at a concert sound check. He continued to compose and produced his last album, “New World Order,” in 1996. His heath continued to decline, and he passed away in 1999 at the age of 57.
The band playing the tribute includes Travis Atria (guitar/vocals) who is the co-author of “Traveling Soul,” the first comprehensive biography of Curtis Mayfield, written with Mayfield’s son, Todd. The book will be for sale at the concert. Atria also played in Morningbell and Shoddy Beatles. He is joined by Wester Joseph (guitar/vocals) of Stereo Vudu, Chris Hillman (drums) of Morningbell and Shoddy Beatles, Collin Whitlock (keyboards) of Shoddy Beatles and the Slims and Chris Chaires (percussion/drums) of The Duppies.
Atria says of the tribute concert, “I will be doing an opening set with some of the more melodic Impressions’ material, and then the band will get into Mayfield’s funky stuff, featuring songs from his groundbreaking solo career, including ‘Superfly,’ ‘Move On Up,’ ‘Freddie’s Dead,’ ‘Pusherman’ and more.”