24 Comments

I think most of the ex-jukebox singles that I had were already scratched to hell or warped by the time I bought them so finding some clean examples is a bit of a treasure.! Well done!

Expand full comment
Jun 4·edited Jun 4Liked by Dan Epstein

Chicago definitely hasn't done right by Mayfield. In the downtown area, there are a lot of streets named after local celebrities, but I didn't see anything like "Curtis Mayfield Way".

In the '60s and '70s the Windy City produced many classic hits rivaling those coming out of Motown, Stax and Philadelphia International, and it seemed like Mayfield wrote the vast majority of them, done by his group The Impressions, him as a solo artist, or for the artists he had on the roster on his Curtom label. The guy was amazingly prolific as a writer!

The problem was that there was never a label in the city that rivalled the staying power of the R&B powerhouses in other cities. Vee-Jay and Curtom both only lasted a decade or so, and there were many others that came and went quickly, Chess had some good soul artists but they tended to treat them as secondary to the blues crowd. And the largest independent label in the city, Mercury, which had once had a strong R&B and jazz roster, ended up being swallowed up by foreign ownership that ultimately to it (along with Motown) being merely part of Universal Music now.

Expand full comment
author

You wouldn’t have seen anything in downtown Chicago - “Honorary Curtis Mayfield Avenue” is on the Near North Side on Hudson Avenue between Oak and Chestnut, near where he lived as a teen at the (now-demolished) Cabrini Green housing project. So, points for historical accuracy, at least…

But you’re completely correct about Chicago soul not having a recognizable label or brand to hang its hat on, a la Stax in Memphis or Motown in Detroit.

Expand full comment

The Chicago soul undervaluation came up when I wrote about the Chi-Lites. Between them and Curtis you've got an argument for the Windy City being home to the greatest soul acts. Period. But the point David makes and Dan echoes is valid - the lack of a label that could give the city the kind of recognition that comes from not just Motown, but Stax, Soul, Factory, any label that tied its mast to home-grown talent.

Expand full comment

There’s an olive green ball with disembodied hands bursting out of it in the Lady Bump video. It has to be a glitch in the matrix.

Expand full comment
author

Hahaha - I hadn't noticed that!

Expand full comment
Jun 4Liked by Dan Epstein

For me the lasting legacy of Curtis Mayfield is his sixties civil rights songs with the Impressions—People Get Ready, Keep on Pushing, Choice of Colors, also Move on Up. He should be far more recognized for these songs that still give me chills and can bring me to tears. The Superfly tracks are great, but those previous songs are etched in my memory forever.

Expand full comment
author

Absolute classics, all - but his knack for incisive social commentary remained very strong throughout the 1970s and beyond.

Expand full comment
Jun 4Liked by Dan Epstein

Absolutely agree.

Expand full comment

Curtis wasn't the only soul man who lived in Cabrini Green- so did Jerry Butler, Gene Chandler and Major Lance. Curtis played a prominent role in all of their careers.

Expand full comment
author

He certainly did!

Expand full comment
Jun 4Liked by Dan Epstein

TIL of Lady Bump and also that there are some things you just don't need to know about. :p

Expand full comment
author

Keep reading JTL, and you’ll learn about a lot more things you didn’t need to know!

Expand full comment
Jun 4Liked by Dan Epstein

Keep 'em comin!

Expand full comment
author

Oh, you know I will! ;-)

Expand full comment
Jun 4Liked by Dan Epstein

Penny McLean was into Kabbalah before Madonna was, and wrote a bunch of books filled with New Age woo-woo. And I believe she inevitably leaned into Fascism, as one does, but I may be misremembering.

Expand full comment
author

Hmmm… I knew about her spirituality/numerology writings, but I can’t say I’ve come across anything about her fascist leanings. That would be a bummer if true.

Expand full comment
Jun 4Liked by Dan Epstein

Well-timed. I’m deeply within a Mayfield revival of my own; the family gave me a nice pressing of Curtis for Mother’s Day. It’s hard to beat that.

Expand full comment
author

Nice!

Expand full comment

I have all of Curtis' solo albums up to 'There's No Place Like America Today' and I love them all. Well worth not overlooking 'Got To Find A Way' and 'Let's Do It Again,' but the absolute sleeper amongst them all, for me anyway, is 'Sweet Exorcist.' I bought it as a teen on the strength of its cover alone, and despite its short running time it never disappoints. It's worth the money for the title track and 'Suffer' alone.

Expand full comment
author

I love that album! Back to the World is another great sleeper in his catalog, too, as is Short Eyes.

Expand full comment

This is a fun post and Dan and in further evidence that some minds think alike (though they may not qualify as "great") I"ve been considering something alphabetically similar based on retrieving random CDs from an alphabeticized folder on a long drive and playing them without looking at them (i.e. without knowing what I was playing). The Curtis video from 1970 is quite deep for the time, albeit of its time. The same can be said for Patti McLean and whatever ruination of Toot-and-come-in her song title was delivered as. I don't believe anything has been rejected from Eurovision as being too "absurd" but there is definitely a limit to naffness, though Eurovision straddles that line as well. Maybe it's that it's not very good - it is so laughable I kept expecting everyone to rip their clothes off like it was all a set-up for some dodgy late 70s Europorn! BTW, did your research explain how Patti could sing for Luxembourg if she was actually from Austria? Do they have the "grandparent" clause like international football teams these days? Who knows and do we care?... Cheers!

Expand full comment
author

Hahaha - no, I didn’t dive into it far enough to ascertain whatever Eurovision loophole would have made that possible. Like ice hockey, Eurovision is something I enjoy from a distance, and with only a vague understanding of the rules.

Expand full comment

Wow those Penny McLean songs are absolute gold!!

Expand full comment