A Man Like Curtis

Lenny Kravitz, a life-long fan of Curtis Mayfield's music, celebrates his life and musical achievements.

Curtis was a prolific songwriter whose career was sadly cut short following a tragic accident in August 1990; which eventually led to his death at the age of 57 on 26th December 1999. His songs of love and peace influenced millions, and he was an inspiration to many music luminaries including Bob Marley, Jimi Hendrix, Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder and Aretha Franklin.

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01People Get Ready2010011120110712 (6M)
20120124 (6M)

Lenny Kravitz, a life-long fan of Curtis Mayfield's music, celebrates his life and musical achievements.

Curtis was a prolific songwriter whose career was sadly cut short following a tragic accident in August 1990; which eventually led to his death at the age of 57 on 26th December 1999. His songs of love and peace influenced millions, and he was an inspiration to many music luminaries including Bob Marley, Jimi Hendrix, Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder and Aretha Franklin.Lenny Kravitz celebrates Curtis Mayfield, beginning with a look at his early career.

The first episode, People Get Ready, concentrates on Curtis' early musical influences from 50s to 65: gospel beginnings, writing songs for Jerry Butler, and early Impressions' hits. The subjects of his songs ranged from simple, tender love songs to broadsides demanding social and political equality.

As a songwriter and a producer, Curtis was a key architect of Chicago soul, penning material and working on sessions by notable Windy City soulsters including Gene Chandler, Jerry Butler, Major Lance, and Billy Butler. Mayfield was also an excellent guitarist, and his rolling, Latin-influenced lines were the highlights of The Impressions' recordings. Early on, he established his own publishing company and soon after that, his own independent record companies, Windy C, Mayfield and Curtom Records. These all emphasized Curtis' statesman-like role within black music as a producer of excellence.

Lenny Kravitz celebrates the life and music of Curtis Mayfield.

Curtis was a prolific songwriter whose career was sadly cut short following a tragic accident in August 1990; which eventually led to his death at the age of 57 on 26th December 1999.

His songs of love and peace influenced millions, and he was an inspiration to many music luminaries including Bob Marley, Jimi Hendrix, Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder and Aretha Franklin.

The first episode, People Get Ready, concentrates on Curtis' early musical influences from 50s to 65: gospel beginnings, writing songs for Jerry Butler, and early Impressions' hits.

The subjects of his songs ranged from simple, tender love songs to broadsides demanding social and political equality.

As a songwriter and a producer, Curtis was a key architect of Chicago soul, penning material and working on sessions by notable Windy City soulsters including Gene Chandler, Jerry Butler, Major Lance, and Billy Butler.

Mayfield was also an excellent guitarist, and his rolling, Latin-influenced lines were the highlights of The Impressions' recordings.

Early on, he established his own publishing company and soon after that, his own independent record companies, Windy C, Mayfield and Curtom Records.

These all emphasized Curtis' statesman-like role within black music as a producer of excellence.

03Keep On Keeping On20100125

Lenny Kravitz continues to chart the life and career of Curtis Mayfield. The third episode, Keep On Keeping On, picks up the story in the late 70s and takes us up to his appearance at the 1983 Glastonbury Festival.

Curtis continued his work on film soundtracks with A Piece of the Action, Sparkle and Short Eyes. Towards the end of the 70's he concentrated more on producing a number of artists including Aretha Franklin's 1978 album, Almighty Fire.

In 1981, he joined the Boardwalk label, for which he recorded Honesty. He remained a highly popular live artist, particularly in Britain where (Celebrate) The Day After You, a collaboration with the Blow Monkeys, and a protest song against the Thatcher government, became a hit. We explore what he was like as a live performer and talk to the band members who played Glastonbury Festival with him in 1983.

Lenny Kravitz charts the life and career of Curtis Mayfield from the late 70s onwards.

04New World Order20100201
04 LASTNew World Order20100201

Lenny Kravitz concludes the story of Curtis Mayfield. The final episode, New World Order, covers the tragic circumstances preceding his death and celebrates his enduring legacy.

On 13 August 1990 Curtis was doing a sound-check for an outdoor concert, onstage at Wingate Field, Flatbush, Brooklyn when the lighting rig came down on top of him crushing his spine in three places, and resulting in him being paralysed from the neck down. However, it did not deter him and he managed to produce a new studio album, New World Order in 1994. During the recording Curtis had to lie on his back in order to give some gravitational power to his singing.

His accident led to a re-appraisal of his work and several tribute albums were produced. He also received a Grammy Award for lifetime achievement. But the long term effects of the accident proved costly, and he died on 26 December 1999, aged only 57. Curtis Mayfield's contribution to soul music remains immense. He recorded some of the finest soul vocal group music of the 1960s; as a solo artist he helped pioneer funk; and he introduced hard-hitting urban commentary into his music, leading the way for Marvin Gaye's What's Going On and Stevie Wonder's Innervisions.

Lenny Kravitz conclude his look at the life and career of Curtis Mayfield.

6M02Move On Up20110713

Lenny Kravitz looks at Curtis' protest songs, chart success and Superfly.

Lenny Kravitz, a life-long fan of Curtis Mayfield's music, celebrates his life and musical achievements.

The second episode, Move On Up, looks at Curtis' protest songs, chart success and his 'blaxploitation' movie theme Superfly.

In 60s America, Curtis Mayfield's songs were taken up by Civil Rights Movement: Choice of Colors, My Country, I'm So Proud and We're a Winner, all with the Impressions.

In 1970, Curtis launched his solo career with (Don't Worry) If There's A Hell Below We're All Going To Go, a protest song confronting ghetto life with a realism that had rarely been heard on record.

He also toughened up his guitar work, incorporating some of the best features of psychedelic rock and funk.

In 1971 he enjoyed his biggest UK success with Move on Up, which reached number 12 but surprisingly did not chart in America.

There, his commercial rise was maintained in 1972 with Freddie's Dead and the theme from Superfly, a 'blaxploitation' movie that he scored.

Drug deals, ghetto shootings, the deaths of young black men: all were described in detail.

Yet Curtis' falsetto vocals, uplifting melodies, and funky arrangements gave the moralizing material a graceful strength.

Both singles and the album achieved gold status, inspiring further excursions into film soundtracks, including Claudine, and Lets Do It Again.

6M02Move On Up20120125

Lenny Kravitz looks at Curtis' protest songs, chart success and Superfly.

Lenny Kravitz, a life-long fan of Curtis Mayfield's music, celebrates his life and musical achievements.

The second episode, Move On Up, looks at Curtis' protest songs, chart success and his 'blaxploitation' movie theme Superfly.

In 60s America, Curtis Mayfield's songs were taken up by Civil Rights Movement: Choice of Colors, My Country, I'm So Proud and We're a Winner, all with the Impressions. In 1970, Curtis launched his solo career with (Don't Worry) If There's A Hell Below We're All Going To Go, a protest song confronting ghetto life with a realism that had rarely been heard on record. He also toughened up his guitar work, incorporating some of the best features of psychedelic rock and funk.

In 1971 he enjoyed his biggest UK success with Move on Up, which reached number 12 but surprisingly did not chart in America. There, his commercial rise was maintained in 1972 with Freddie's Dead and the theme from Superfly, a 'blaxploitation' movie that he scored. Drug deals, ghetto shootings, the deaths of young black men: all were described in detail. Yet Curtis' falsetto vocals, uplifting melodies, and funky arrangements gave the moralizing material a graceful strength. Both singles and the album achieved gold status, inspiring further excursions into film soundtracks, including Claudine, and Lets Do It Again.

6M03Keep On Keeping On20110714

Lenny Kravitz picks up the story in the late 1970s.

Lenny Kravitz continues to chart the life and career of Curtis Mayfield.

The third episode, Keep On Keeping On, picks up the story in the late 70s and takes us up to his appearance at the 1983 Glastonbury Festival.

Curtis continued his work on film soundtracks with A Piece of the Action, Sparkle and Short Eyes.

Towards the end of the 70's he concentrated more on producing a number of artists including Aretha Franklin's 1978 album, Almighty Fire.

In 1981, he joined the Boardwalk label, for which he recorded Honesty.

He remained a highly popular live artist, particularly in Britain where (Celebrate) The Day After You, a collaboration with the Blow Monkeys, and a protest song against the Thatcher government, became a hit.

We explore what he was like as a live performer and talk to the band members who played Glastonbury Festival with him in 1983.

6M03Keep On Keeping On20120126

Lenny Kravitz continues to chart the life and career of Curtis Mayfield.

Lenny Kravitz continues to chart the life and career of Curtis Mayfield. The third episode, Keep On Keeping On, picks up the story in the late 70s and takes us up to his appearance at the 1983 Glastonbury Festival.

Curtis continued his work on film soundtracks with A Piece of the Action, Sparkle and Short Eyes. Towards the end of the 70's he concentrated more on producing a number of artists including Aretha Franklin's 1978 album, Almighty Fire.

In 1981, he joined the Boardwalk label, for which he recorded Honesty. He remained a highly popular live artist, particularly in Britain where (Celebrate) The Day After You, a collaboration with the Blow Monkeys, and a protest song against the Thatcher government, became a hit. We explore what he was like as a live performer and talk to the band members who played Glastonbury Festival with him in 1983.

6M04 LASTNew World Order20110715

Lenny Kravitz conclude his look at the life and career of Curtis Mayfield.

Lenny Kravitz concludes the story of Curtis Mayfield.

The final episode, New World Order, covers the tragic circumstances preceding his death and celebrates his enduring legacy.

On 13 August 1990 Curtis was doing a sound-check for an outdoor concert, onstage at Wingate Field, Flatbush, Brooklyn when the lighting rig came down on top of him crushing his spine in three places, and resulting in him being paralysed from the neck down.

However, it did not deter him and he managed to produce a new studio album, New World Order in 1994.

During the recording Curtis had to lie on his back in order to give some gravitational power to his singing.

His accident led to a re-appraisal of his work and several tribute albums were produced.

He also received a Grammy Award for lifetime achievement.

But the long term effects of the accident proved costly, and he died on 26 December 1999, aged only 57.

Curtis Mayfield's contribution to soul music remains immense.

He recorded some of the finest soul vocal group music of the 1960s; as a solo artist he helped pioneer funk; and he introduced hard-hitting urban commentary into his music, leading the way for Marvin Gaye's What's Going On and Stevie Wonder's Innervisions.

6M04 LASTNew World Order20120127

Lenny Kravitz concludes his look at the life and career of Curtis Mayfield.

Lenny Kravitz concludes the story of Curtis Mayfield. The final episode, New World Order, covers the tragic circumstances preceding his death and celebrates his enduring legacy.

On 13 August 1990 Curtis was doing a sound-check for an outdoor concert, onstage at Wingate Field, Flatbush, Brooklyn when the lighting rig came down on top of him crushing his spine in three places, and resulting in him being paralysed from the neck down. However, it did not deter him and he managed to produce a new studio album, New World Order in 1994. During the recording Curtis had to lie on his back in order to give some gravitational power to his singing.

His accident led to a re-appraisal of his work and several tribute albums were produced. He also received a Grammy Award for lifetime achievement. But the long term effects of the accident proved costly, and he died on 26 December 1999, aged only 57. Curtis Mayfield's contribution to soul music remains immense. He recorded some of the finest soul vocal group music of the 1960s; as a solo artist he helped pioneer funk; and he introduced hard-hitting urban commentary into his music, leading the way for Marvin Gaye's What's Going On and Stevie Wonder's Innervisions.