Curtis Lee Mayfield (June 3, 1942 – December 26, 1999) was an American soul, rhythm and blues, and funk singer, songwriter, and record producer best known for his anthemic music with The Impressions and composing the soundtrack to the blaxploitation film Super Fly. From these works and others, he is highly regarded as a pioneer of funk and of politically conscious African-American music. He was also a multi-instrumentalist who played the guitar, bass, piano, saxophone, and drums.
Born on June 3, 1942 in Chicago, Illinois, Mayfield was the son of Marion Washington and Kenneth Mayfield. Mayfield’s father abandoned the family when Mayfield was five and his mother moved Curtis and his siblings into various Chicago projects before settling at the Cabrini–Green projects when Mayfield reached his teenage years. Mayfield attended Wells Community Academy High School. He dropped out of high school early to become lead singer and songwriter for The Impressions, then went on to a successful solo career. Perhaps most notably, Mayfield was among the first of a new wave of mainstream African-American R&B performing artists and composers injecting social commentary into their work. This “message music” became extremely popular during the 1960s and 1970s.