Curtis Mayfield was an American singer, songwriter, and guitarist who rose to fame as the lead singer of the soul and R&B group The Impressions. Born in Chicago in 1942, Mayfield began singing gospel music in his church choir as a child. He founded The Impressions in 1958 and wrote and produced a string of hits, including "Gypsy Woman," "People Get Ready," and "It's All Right," which became an anthem for the civil rights movement.
In 1970, Mayfield released his solo debut album, Curtis, which featured the hit singles "Move On Up" and "We People Who Are Darker Than Blue." He followed this success with three more solo albums, Roots, Back to the World, and Sweet Exorcist, which all reached the top ten on the R&B chart. In 1975, he released the chart-topping album There's No Place Like America Today, which featured the hit singles "Freddie's Dead" and "Give Me Your Love."
Throughout his career, Mayfield was an outspoken advocate for civil rights and social justice, writing and singing songs that spoke to the struggles of African Americans and other marginalized people. His song "We People Who Are Darker Than Blue" was the first R&B song to be used in an advertisement, and he was a major influence on the development of funk, soul, and disco music.
In 1990, Mayfield was paralyzed from the neck down after a stage accident, but he continued to write and record music from his wheelchair. His final album, New World Order, was released in 1996. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999 and received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005.
Mayfield's influence on popular music is immeasurable. His songs have been sampled or covered by countless artists, including Public Enemy, The Notorious B.I.G., and Beastie Boys. He is remembered as one of the most influential and innovative musicians of the 20th century.