Musicians

Jerry Butler

12/08/2014
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Jerry Butler (born Jerry Butler Jr., December 8, 1939, Sunflower, Mississippi) is an American soul singer and songwriter. He is also noted as being the original lead singer of the famed R&B vocal group, The Impressions, as well as a 1991 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee.

Jerry Butler is also an American politician. He serves as a Commissioner for Cook County, Illinois, having first been elected in 1985. As a member of this 17-member county board, he chairs the Health and Hospitals Committee, and serves as Vice Chair of the Construction Committee.

 

Jerry Butler
Jerry Butler

Biography

Jerry Butler’s Early life

The mid-1950s had a profound impact on Butler’s life. He grew up poor, having lived in Chicago’s Cabrini–Green housing complex. Music and the church provided solace from racial discrimination and inequality. He performed in a church choir with Curtis Mayfield. As a teenager, Butler sang in a gospel quartet called Northern Jubilee Gospel Singers, along with Mayfield. Mayfield, a guitar player, became the lone instrumentalist for the six-member Roosters group, which later became The Impressions. Inspired by Sam Cooke and the Soul Stirrers, the Five Blind Boys of Mississippi, and the Pilgrim Travelers, getting into the music industry seemed inevitable.

Butler’s younger brother, Billy Butler, also had a career in the music industry. Today, Billy plays guitar with Jerry’s band, which tours throughout the country.

Early recordings

Jerry Butler wrote the song “For Your Precious Love” (which is ranked No. 327 on the Rolling Stone magazine’s list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time) and wanted to record a disc. Looking for recording studios, The Impressions (the original members of which were Butler, Curtis MayfieldSam GoodenFred Cash (who left early on, and later returned), and brothers Arthur and Richard Brooks, auditioned for Chess Records and Vee-Jay Records. The group eventually signed with Vee-Jay, where they released “For Your Precious Love” in 1958. It became The Impressions’ first hit and gold record.

Solo career

Jerry Butler was dubbed the “Iceman” by WDAS Philadelphia disc jockey, Georgie Woods, while performing in a Philadelphia theater.

He co-wrote, with Otis Redding, the song “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” in 1965. Butler’s solo career had a string of hits, including the Top 10 successes “He Will Break Your Heart”, “Find Another Girl”, “I’m A-Telling You” (all written by fellow Impression Curtis Mayfield and featuring Mayfield as harmony vocal), the million selling “Only the Strong Survive”, “Moon River”, “Need To Belong” (recorded with the Impressions after he went solo), “Make It Easy on Yourself”, “Let It Be Me” (with Betty Everett), “Brand New Me”, “Ain’t Understanding Mellow” (with Brenda Lee Eager), “Hey, Western Union Man“, and “Never Give You Up”. His 1969 “Moody Woman” release became a Northern Soul favorite and featured at number 369 in the Northern Soul Top 500. Butler released two successful albums, The Ice Man Cometh (1968) and Ice on Ice (1970). The Ice Man Cometh garnered Butler three Grammy nominations. He collaborated on many of his successful recordings with the Philadelphia-based songwriting team, Gamble and Huff. With Motown, in 1976 and 1977, Butler produced and co-produced (with Paul David Wilson) two albums: 1.) Suite For The Single Girl and 2.) It All Comes Out In My Song.

Tony Orlando and Dawn revived “He Will Break Your Heart” in 1975, with a new title, “He Don’t Love You (Like I Love You)”, and it was more successful than Butler’s original, going to number one on the US Billboard Hot 100 pop chart.

Subsequently, Jerry Butler and Wilson produced an album with Dee Dee Sharp-Gamble with Philadelphia International. In 1981 with “Breaking and Entering” / “Easy Money”, from Sharp-Gamble’s album Dee Dee, Butler/Wilson’s production spent four weeks at number one on the Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart and Dance Chart Billboard.

Jerry Butler :: 1980s to date

In recent years, Jerry Butler has served as host of PBS TV music specials such as Doo Wop 50 and 51Rock Rhythm and Doo Wop, and Soul Spectacular: 40 years of R&B, among others. He has also served as chairman of the board of the Rhythm and Blues Foundation. In 1991, Butler was inducted, along with the other original members of the Impressions (Curtis Mayfield, Sam GoodenFred Cash, and Arthur and Richard Brooks), into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Most recently, blues-rock duo The Black Keys covered “Never Give You Up” on their 2010 album, Brothers.

Personal life

Jerry Butler currently resides in Chicago with his wife, Annette—who is one of his backup singers on the road. He has two sons, Randy and Tony, and a grandson.

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Musicians

Louis Armstrong

07/06/2014
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Louis Armstrong (August 4, 1901 – July 6, 1971), nicknamed Satchmo or Pops, was an American jazz trumpeter and singer from New Orleans, Louisiana. Coming to prominence in the 1920s as an “inventive” trumpet and cornet player, Armstrong was a foundational influence in jazz, shifting the focus of the music from collective improvisation to solo performance. With his instantly recognizable gravelly voice, Armstrong was also an influential singer, demonstrating great dexterity as an improviser, bending the lyrics and melody of a song for expressive purposes. He was also skilled at scat singing (vocalizing using sounds and syllables instead of actual lyrics). Renowned for his charismatic stage presence and voice almost as much as for his trumpet-playing, Armstrong’s influence extends well beyond jazz music, and by the end of his career in the 1960s, he was widely regarded as a profound influence on popular music in general. Armstrong was one of the first truly popular African-American entertainers to “cross over”, whose skin-color was secondary to his music in an America that was severely racially divided.

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Musicians

Machito

06/04/2014
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Machito (born Francisco Raúl Gutiérrez Grillo, February 16, 1908–April 19, 1984) was an influential Latin jazz musician who helped refine Afro-Cuban jazz and create both Cubop and salsa music. He was raised in Havana alongside the singer Graciela, his foster sister. In New York City, Machito formed the band the Afro-Cubans in 1940, and with Mario Bauzá as musical director, brought together Cuban rhythms and big band arrangements in one group. He made numerous recordings from the 1940s to the 1980s, many with Graciela as singer. Machito changed to a smaller ensemble format in 1975, touring Europe extensively. He brought his son and daughter into the band, and received a Grammy Award in 1983, one year before he died. Machito’s music had an effect on the lives of many musicians who played in the Afro-Cubans over the years, and on those who were attracted to Latin jazz after hearing him. George Shearing, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker and Stan Kenton credited Machito as an influence. An intersection in East Harlem is named “Machito Square” in his honor.

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Musicians

Duke Ellington

06/04/2014
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Duke Ellington (April 29, 1899 – May 24, 1974) was an American composer, pianist and bandleader of jazz orchestras. His career spanned over 50 years, leading his orchestra from 1923 until death. Though widely considered to have been a pivotal figure in the history of jazz, Ellington himself embraced the phrase “beyond category” as a “liberating principle,” and referred his music to the more general category of “American Music,” rather than to a musical genre such as “jazz.”

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Musicians

Sir George Henry Martin

01/03/2014
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Sir George Henry Martin CBE (born January 3rd, 1926) is an English record producer, arranger, composer, conductor, audio engineer and musician. He is sometimes referred to as “the Fifth Beatle” in reference to his extensive involvement on each of the Beatles‘ original albums. He is considered one of the greatest record producers of all time, with 30 number one hit singles in the UK and 23 number one hits in the USA.

Influenced by a range of musical styles, encompassing Cole Porter and Johnny Dankworth, he attended the Guildhall School of Music and Drama from 1947 to 1950, studying piano and oboe. Following his graduation, he worked for the BBC’sclassical music department, then joined EMI in 1950. Martin produced comedy and novelty records in the early 1950s, working with the likes of Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan.

In a career spanning over six decades, Martin has worked in music, film, television and live performance. He has also held a number of senior executive roles at media companies and contributes to a wide range of charitable causes, including his work for the Prince’s Trust and the Caribbean island of Montserrat.

In recognition of his services to the music industry and popular culture, he was awarded as Knight Bachelor in 1996.

 

Early years

When he was six, Martin’s family acquired a piano that sparked his interest in music. At eight years of age, Martin persuaded his parents that he should take piano lessons, but those ended after only eight lessons because of a disagreement between his mother and the teacher. After that, Martin explained that he had just picked it up by himself. As a child he attended several schools, including a “convent school in Holloway”, St. Joseph’s elementary school in Highgate, and St Ignatius’ Collegein Stamford Hill, to which he won a scholarship.[4] When war broke out and St. Ignatius College students were evacuated to Welwyn Garden City, his family left London and he was enrolled at Bromley Grammar School.

 

Despite Martin’s continued interest in music, and “fantasies about being the next Rachmaninov”, he did not initially choose music as a career. He worked briefly as a quantity surveyor and then for the War Office as a Temporary Clerk (Grade Three) which meant filing paperwork and making tea.  In 1943, when he was seventeen, he joined the Fleet Air Arm of the Royal Navy and became a pilot and a commissioned officer. The war ended before Martin was involved in any combat, and he left the service in 1947. Encouraged by Sidney Harrison (a member of the Committee for the Promotion of New Music) Martin used his veteran’s grant to attend the Guildhall School of Music and Drama from 1947 to 1950, where he studied piano and oboe, and was interested in the music of Rachmaninov and Ravel, as well as Porter and Dankworth. Martin’s oboe teacher was Margaret Eliot (the mother of Jane Asher, who would later have a relationship with Paul McCartney).  On 3 January 1948—while still at the Academy—Martin married Sheena Chisholm, with whom he had two children, Alexis and Gregory Paul Martin. He later married Judy Lockhart-Smith on 24 June 1966, and they also had two children, Lucy and Giles Martin.

 

Parlophone

The Beatles’ first LP—produced by Martin.

 

Following his graduation, he worked for the BBC’s classical music department, then joined EMI in 1950, as an assistant to Oscar Preuss, the head of EMI’s Parlophone Records from 1950 to 1955. Although having been regarded by EMI as a vital German imprint in the past, it was then seen as a joke and only used for EMI’s insignificant acts. After taking over Parlophone when Preuss retired in 1955, Martin spent his first years with the record label recording classical and Baroque music, original cast recordings of hit plays, and regional music from around Britain and Ireland.

Martin also produced numerous comedy and novelty records. Martin scored his first hit for Parlophone in 1952 with the Peter Ustinov single “Mock Mozart” – a record reluctantly released by EMI only after Preuss insisted they give his young assistant, Martin, a chance. Later that decade Martin worked with Peter Sellers, and thus came to know Spike Milligan, with whom he became a firm friend, and best man at Milligan’s second marriage: “I loved the Goon Show, and issued an album of it on my label Parlophone, which is how I got to know Spike.” The album was Bridge On The River Wye. It was a spoof of the film The Bridge on the River Kwai, being based on the 1957 Goon Show An African Incident. It was intended to have the same name as the film, but shortly before its release, the film company threatened legal action if the name was used. Martin edited out the ‘K’ every time the word ‘Kwai’ was spoken, with Bridge on the River Wye being the result. The album included Milligan, Sellers, Jonathan Miller and Peter Cook, playing various characters.

 

Other comedians Martin worked with included Joan SimsRolf HarrisFlanders and Swann and Shirley Abicair. Martin worked with the Vipers Skiffle Group, with whom he had a number of hits. In early 1962, under the pseudonym “Ray Cathode”, Martin released an early electronic dance single, “Time Beat“—recorded at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop—in much the same style as the Doctor Who theme tune. As Martin wanted to add rock and roll to Parlophone’s repertoire, he struggled to find a “fireproof” hit-making pop artist or group.

As a producer Martin recorded the two-man show featuring Michael Flanders and Donald Swann called At the Drop of a Hat, which sold steadily for twenty-five years, although Martin’s breakthrough as a producer came with the Beyond the Fringe show, which starred Peter CookDudley MooreAlan Bennett and Jonathan Miller. Martin’s work transformed the profile of Parlophone from a “sad little company” to a very profitable business.

 

The Beatles

Martin working with the Beatles in Studio during Beatles for Sale sessions, 1964.

 

Martin was contacted by Sid Coleman of Ardmore & Beechwood, who told him about Brian Epstein, the manager of a band he had met. He thought Martin might be interested in the group, even though they had been turned down by Decca Records among other major British labels. Until that time, although he had had considerable success with the comedy records and a number 1 hit with the Temperance Seven, Martin had had only minor success with pop music, such as “Who Could Be Bluer” by Jerry Lordan, and singles with Shane Fenton and Matt Monro. After the telephone call by Coleman, Martin arranged a meeting on 13 February 1962 with Brian Epstein. Martin listened to a tape recorded at Decca, and thought that Epstein’s group was “rather unpromising”, but liked the sound of Lennon and McCartney’s vocals.

 

After another meeting with Epstein on 9 May at the Abbey Road studios, Martin was impressed with Epstein’s enthusiasm and agreed to sign the unknown Beatles to a recording contract without having met them or seen them play live. The contract was not what it seemed, however, as Martin would not sign it himself until he had heard an audition, and later said that EMI had “nothing to lose,” as it offered one penny for each record sold, which was split amongst the four members. Martin suggested to EMI (after the release of “From Me to You“) that the royalty rate should be doubled without asking for anything in return, which led to Martin being thought of as a “traitor in EMI”.

The Beatles auditioned for Martin on 6 June 1962, in studio three at the Abbey Road studios. Ron Richards and his engineer Norman Smith recorded four songs, which Martin (who was not present during the recording) listened to at the end of the session. The verdict was not promising, however, as Richards complained about Pete Best‘s drumming, and Martin thought their original songs were simply not good enough. Martin asked the individual Beatles if there was anything they personally did not like, to which George Harrison replied, “Well, there’s your tie, for a start.” That was the turning point, according to Smith, as John Lennon and Paul McCartney joined in with jokes and comic wordplay that made Martin think that he should sign them to a contract for their wit alone.

The Beatles’ first recording session with Martin was on 4 September, when they recorded “How Do You Do It“, which Martin thought was a sure-fire hit even though Lennon and McCartney did not want to release it, not being one of their own compositions. Martin was correct: Gerry & the Pacemakers‘ version, which Martin produced, spent three weeks at No. 1 in April 1963 before being displaced by “From Me to You”. On 11 September 1962, the Beatles re-recorded “Love Me Do” with session player Andy White playing drums. Starr was asked to play tambourine and maracas, and although he complied, he was definitely “not pleased”. Due to an EMI library error, the 4 September version with Starr playing drums was issued on the single; afterwards, the tape was destroyed and the 11 September recording with Andy White on drums was used for all subsequent releases. Martin would later praise Starr’s drumming, calling him “probably … the finest rock drummer in the world today”. “Love Me Do” peaked at number 17 in the British charts, so on 26 November 1962 Martin recorded “Please Please Me“, which he only did after Lennon and McCartney had almost begged him to record another of their original songs. Martin’s crucial contribution to the song was to tell them to speed up what was initially a slow ballad. After the recording Martin looked over the mixing desk and said, “Gentlemen, you have just made your first number one record”. Martin directed Epstein to find a good publisher, as Ardmore & Beechwood had done nothing to promote “Love Me Do”, informing Epstein of three publishers who, in Martin’s opinion, would be fair and honest, which led them to Dick James.

 

As an arranger

Abbey Road Studios, where Martin recorded Parlophone’s artists.

 

Martin’s musical expertise helped fill the gaps between the Beatles’ raw talent and the sound they wanted to achieve. Most of the Beatles’ orchestral arrangements and instrumentation (as well as frequent keyboard parts on the early records) were written or performed by Martin in collaboration with the band. It was Martin’s idea to put a string quartet on “Yesterday“, against McCartney’s initial reluctance. Martin played the song in the style of Bach to show McCartney the voicings that were available. Another example is the song “Penny Lane“, which featured a piccolo trumpet solo. McCartney hummed the melody he wanted, and Martin notated it for David Mason, the classically trained trumpeter.

 

Sir George Henry Martin’s distinctive arranging work appears on many Beatles recordings. For “Eleanor Rigby” he scored and conducted a strings-only accompaniment inspired by Bernard Herrmann. On a Canadian speaking tour in 2007, Martin said his “Eleanor Rigby” score was influenced by Herrmann’s score for the Alfred Hitchcock thriller, Psycho. For “Strawberry Fields Forever“, he and recording engineer Geoff Emerick turned two very different takes into a single master through careful use of vari-speed and editing. For “I Am the Walrus“, he provided a quirky and original arrangement for brass, violins, cellos, and the Mike Sammes Singers vocal ensemble. On “In My Life“, he played a speeded-up baroque piano solo. He worked with McCartney to implement the orchestral ‘climax’ in “A Day in the Life” and he and McCartney shared conducting duties the day it was recorded.

 

He contributed less-noted but integral parts to other songs, including the piano in “Lovely Rita“, the harpsichord in “Fixing a Hole“, the organs and tape loop arrangement that create the Pablo Fanque circus atmosphere that Lennon requested on “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!” (both Martin and Lennon played organ parts for this song), and the orchestration in “Good Night“. The first song that Martin did not arrange was “She’s Leaving Home“, as he had a prior engagement to produce a Cilla Black session, so McCartney contacted arranger Mike Leander to do it. Martin was reportedly hurt by this, but still produced the recording and conducted the orchestra himself. Martin was in demand as an independent arranger and producer by the time of The White Album, so the Beatles were left to produce various tracks by themselves.

 

Martin arranged the score for the Beatles’ film Yellow Submarine and the James Bond film Live and Let Die, for which Paul McCartney wrote and sang the title song.

Paul McCartney once commended Martin by saying: “George Martin [was] quite experimental for who he was, a grown-up.”

As a composer

Martin has composed film scores since the early 1960s, including the instrumental scores of the films Yellow Submarine and Live and Let Die, as well as being a producer and arranger. He also composed Adagietto for Harmonica & Strings for Tommy ReillyTheme One for BBC Radio 1, and Magic Carpet for The Dakotas.

 

The Beatles Anthology

Martin oversaw post-production on The Beatles Anthology (which was originally entitled “The Long and Winding Road”) in 1994 and 1995, working again with Geoff Emerick. Martin decided to use an old 8-track analogue deck to mix the songs for the project—which EMI found out an engineer still had—instead of a modern digital deck. He explained this by saying that the old deck created a completely different sound, which a new deck could not recreate. He also said the whole project was a strange experience for him (with which McCartney agreed) as they had to listen to themselves chatting in the studio, 25–30 years previously.

Martin stepped down when it came to producing the two new singles reuniting McCartney, Harrison and Starr, who wanted to overdub two old Lennon demos. Martin had suffered a hearing loss, and left the work to writer/producer Jeff Lynne of ELO fame.

 

Cirque du Soleil and Love

In 2006, Martin and his son, Giles Martin, remixed 80 minutes of Beatles music for the Las Vegas stage performance Love, a joint venture between Cirque du Soleil and the Beatles’ Apple Corps Ltd. A soundtrack album from the show was released that same year.

 

Other artists

Martin in 2007.

 

Martin has produced recordings for many other artists, including contemporaries of the Beatles, such as Matt MonroCilla Black, and Gerry & The Pacemakers, as well as The King’s Singers, the band America, guitarist Jeff Beck, sixties duo Edwards HandUltravox, country-singer Kenny RogersCheap Trick and Yoshiki Hayashi of X Japan.

 

Martin also worked with the Mahavishnu Orchestra and Gary Glitter. He worked with Glitter before he was famous, and recorded several songs with him in the 1960s under the name of “Paul Raven”. He also produced the 1974 album The Man In The Bowler Hat for the eccentric British folk-rock group Stackridge. Martin worked with Paul Winter on his (1972) Icarus album, which was recorded in a rented house by the sea in Marblehead, Massachusetts. Winter said that Martin taught him “how to use the studio as a tool”, and allowed him to record the album in a relaxed atmosphere, which was different from the pressurized control in a professional studio. In 1979 he worked with Ron Goodwin to produce the album containing The Beatles Concerto, written by John Rutter. In 2010, Martin was the executive producer of the hard rock debut of Arms of the Sun, an all-star project featuring Rex Brown (PanteraDown), John Luke Hebert (King Diamond), Lance Harvill, and Ben Bunker.

 

In 1991, Martin contributed the string arrangement and conducted the orchestra for the song “Ticket To Heaven” on Dire Straits’ last studio album On Every Street. In 1995, he contributed the horn and string arrangement for the song “Latitude” on Elton John’s Made in England album, which was recorded at Martin’s AIR Studios London.

In 1992, Martin worked with Pete Townshend on the musical stage production of Tommy. The play would open on Broadway in 1993, with the original cast album being released that summer. George Martin (not yet “Sir”) would win the Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album in 1993, as the producer of that album.

 

Associated Independent Recording (AIR)

Within the recording industry, Martin is noted for going independent at a time when many producers were still salaried staff—which he was until The Beatles’ success gave him the leverage to start, in 1965, Associated Independent Recording, and hire out his own services to artists who requested him. This arrangement not only demonstrated how important Martin’s talents were considered to be by his artists, but it allowed him a share in record royalties on his hits. Today, Martin’s Associated Independent Recording (AIR) remains one of the world’s pre-eminent recording studios. Martin later opened a studio on the Caribbean island of Montserrat, in 1979.  This studio was destroyed by Hurricane Hugo ten years later.

 

Music from James Bond series

Martin has also directly and indirectly contributed to the main themes of three films in the James Bond series. Although Martin did not produce the theme for the second Bond film, From Russia with Love, he was responsible for the signing of Matt Monro to EMI just months prior to his recording of the song of the same title.

 

Martin also produced two of the best-known James Bond themes. The first was “Goldfinger” by Shirley Bassey in 1964. The second, in 1973, was “Live and Let Die” by Paul McCartney and Wings for the film of the same name. He also composed and produced the film’s score.

 

Books and audio retrospective

In 1979, he published a memoir, All You Need is Ears (co-written with Jeremy Hornsby), that described his work with the Beatles and other artists (including Peter SellersSophia LorenShirley BasseyFlanders and SwannMatt Monro, and Dudley Moore), and gave an informal introduction to the art and science of sound recording. In 1993 Martin published Summer of Love: The Making of Sgt Pepper (published in the USA as With a Little Help from My Friends: The Making of Sgt Pepper, co-authored with William Pearson), which also included interview quotations from a 1992 South Bank Show episode discussing the album. Martin also edited a 1983 book called Making Music: The Guide to Writing, Performing and Recording.

In 2001, Martin released Produced by George Martin: 50 Years In Recording, a six-CD retrospective of his entire studio career, and in 2002, Martin launched Playback, his limited-edition illustrated autobiography, published by Genesis Publications.

 

Television

“The Rhythm Of Life”

In 1997–98, Martin hosted a three-part BBC co-produced documentary series titled “The Rhythm Of Life” in which he discussed various aspects of musical composition with professional musicians and singers, among them Brian WilsonBilly Joel and Celine Dion. The series aired on the Ovation television network in the United States.

 

“Produced By George Martin”

Produced by George Martin, DVD and Blu Ray cover.

 

On 25 April 2011 a 90-minute documentary feature film co-produced by the BBC Arena team, Produced by George Martin, aired to critical acclaim for the first time in the UK. It combines rare archive footage and new interviews with, among others, Paul McCartneyRingo StarrJeff BeckCilla Black and Giles Martin and tells the life story of George Martin from schoolboy born in the Depression to legendary music producer. The film, with over 50 minutes of extra footage, including interviews from Rick RubinT-Bone Burnett and Ken Scott, was released world-wide by Eagle Rock Entertainment on DVD and Blu Ray on 10 September 2012.

 

Awards and recognition

  • Academy Award 1964 – Nomination Scoring of Music (for A Hard Day’s Night)
  • Grammy Award 1967 – Best Contemporary Album (as producer of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band)
  • Grammy Award 1967 – Album Of The Year (as producer of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band)
  • Grammy Award 1973 – Best Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s) (as arranger of “Live and Let Die”)
  • BRIT Awards 1977 – Best British Producer (of the past 25 years).
  • BRIT Awards 1984 – Outstanding Contribution To Music
  • Grammy Award 1993 – Best Musical Show Album (as producer of The Who’s Tommy)
  • Grammy Award 2007 – Best Compilation Soundtrack Album For Motion Picture, Television Or Other Visual Media, producer together with Giles Martin, of The Beatles album Love
  • Grammy Award 2007 – Best Surround Sound Album, producer together with Giles Martin, of The Beatles album Love
  • Martin was named the British Phonographic Industry’s “Man of the Year” for 1998.
  • In April 1989, he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Music by Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts, USA.
  • He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on 15 March 1999 and into the UK Music Hall of Fame on 14 November 2006.
  • In 2002, he was given the Lifetime Achievement Award for Services to Film by the World Soundtrack Academy at Belgium’s Flanders International Film Festival.
  • He was granted his own Coat of Arms in March 2004 by the College of Arms. His shield features three beetles, a House Martin holding a recorder, and the Latin motto Amore Solum Opus Est (“All You Need Is Love”).
  • In November 2006, he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Music by Leeds Metropolitan University
  • In September 2008, he was awarded the James Joyce Award by the Literary and Historical Society of University College Dublin.
  • Martin has also been honoured with a Gold Medal for Services to the Arts from the CISAC (the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers).
  • On 25 May 2010 he was given an honorary membership in the Audio Engineering Society at the 128th AES Convention in London.
  • On 29 June 2011 he was given an honorary degree, Doctor of Music, from the University of Oxford.
  • On 19 Oct. 2012 won an lifetime award in the 39th Golden Badge Awards 

Martin is one of a handful of producers to have number one records in three or more consecutive decades (1960s, 70s, 80s, and 90s). Others in this group include Phil Spector (1950s, 60s and 70s), Quincy Jones (1960s, 70s and 80s), Michael Omartian 1970s, 80s and 90s), and Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis (1980s, 90s, and 2000s).

Selected non-Beatles hit records produced or co-produced by George Martin

Records produced by Martin have achieved 30 number one singles and 16 number one albums in the UK—plus 23 number one singles and 19 number one albums in North America.

Main article: The Beatles discography
Main article: Paul McCartney discography
  • “You’re Driving Me Crazy”, The Temperance Seven (25 May 1961, #1)
  • “My Kind of Girl,” Matt Monro (31 July 1961, #18)
  • “My Boomerang Won’t Come Back,” Charlie Drake (17 March 1962, #21)
  • “Sun Arise,” Rolf Harris (25 October 1962, #3)
  • “Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport,” Rolf Harris (remake, 13 July 1963)
  • “Little Children,” Billy J. Kramer with the Dakotas (19 March 1964, #1)
  • “Bad to Me,” Billy J. Kramer with the Dakotas (22 August 1963, #1)
  • “Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying,” Gerry & the Pacemakers (4 July 1964, #4)
  • “You’re My World,” Cilla Black (1 August 1964, #UK1)
  • “How Do You Do It?,” Gerry & the Pacemakers (11 April 1963, #1)
  • “I Like It,” Gerry & the Pacemakers (7 November 1964, #1)
  • “Walk Away,” Matt Monro (9 January 1965, #23)
  • “I’ll Be There,” Gerry & the Pacemakers (30 January 1965, #14)
  • “Ferry Cross the Mersey,” Gerry & the Pacemakers (20 March 1965, #6)
  • “Goldfinger,” Shirley Bassey (27 March 1965, #8)
  • “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” Gerry & the Pacemakers (3 July 1965, #48)
  • “Trains and Boats and Planes,” Billy J. Kramer with the Dakotas (31 July 1965, #47)
  • “Alfie,” Cilla Black (10 September 1966,#UK6 #95)
  • “Girl on a Swing,” Gerry & the Pacemakers (22 October 1966, #28)
  • “Tin Man,” America (9 November 1974, #4)
  • “Lonely People,” America (8 March 1975, #5)
  • “Sister Golden Hair,” America (14 June 1975, #1)
  • “Oh! Darling,” Robin Gibb (7 October 1978, #15)
  • “Ebony and Ivory” Paul McCartney & Stevie Wonder (29 March 1982 US #1)
  • “Say, Say, Say,” Paul McCartney & Michael Jackson (10 December 1983, #1)
  • “No More Lonely Nights”, Paul McCartney (8 December 1984, #6)
  • “Morning Desire”, Kenny Rogers (10 July 1985, #1)
  • “Candle in the Wind 1997”, Elton John (11 October 1997, #1)
  • “Pure” 2003, Hayley Westenra (#1 UK classical charts, No. 8 UK pop charts)

Discography

  • A Hard Day’s Night: Instrumental Versions of the Motion Picture Score (1964)
  • Off the Beatle Track (1964 Parlophone PCS 3057)
  • George Martin Scores Instrumental Versions of the Hits (1965)
  • Help! (1965 Columbia TWO 102)
  • ..and I Love Her (1966 Columbia TWO 141)
  • George Martin Instrumentally Salutes The Beatle Girls (1966)
  • London by George (1968)
  • British Maid (1968 United Artists SULP 1196)
  • Yellow Submarine (side one: The Beatles, side two: The George Martin Orchestra, 1969)
  • Live and Let Die (producer for Paul McCartney’s song, and composer of musical score, 1973)
  • Beatles to Bond and Bach (1978)
  • In My Life (1998)
  • Produced by George Martin (2001)
  • The Family Way (2003)

Selected discography (as producer)

See also: The Beatles discography and Paul McCartney discography
  • Jimmy Shand “Bluebell Polka” (1952)
  • Peter Ustinov “Mock Mozart” (1952)
  • Roberto Inglez “From The Savoy Hotel” (1953)
  • The Vipers Skiffle Group “Don’t You Rock Me Daddy-O” (1957)
  • Peter Sellers “A Drop of the Hard Stuff” (1958)
  • Flanders and Swann – At the Drop of a Hat (1960)
  • Matt Monro “Portrait of My Love” (1960)
  • Peter Sellers and Sophia Loren “Goodness Gracious Me” (1960)
  • Beyond the Fringe “The End of the World” (1961)
  • Michael Bentine “Football Results” (1962)
  • Joan Sims “Oh Not Again Ken” (1963)
  • Shirley Bassey “I (Who Have Nothing)” (1963)
  • Millicent Martin and David Frost – “That Was The Week That Was” (1963)
  • Flanders and Swann – At the Drop of Another Hat (1964)
  • Gerry and the Pacemakers – Ferry Cross the Mersey (1965)
  • Edwards Hand – Edwards Hand (1969)
  • Ringo Starr – Sentimental Journey (1970)
  • Seatrain Seatrain (1970)
  • The King’s Singers “The King’s Singers Collection” (1972)
  • Paul Winter Consort – Icarus (1972)
  • The King’s Singers “A French Collection” (1973)
  • The King’s Singers “Deck the Hall” (1973)
  • Stackridge – The Man in the Bowler Hat (released as Pinafore Days in the U.S. and Canada) (1974)
  • Mahavishnu Orchestra – Apocalypse (1974)
  • America – Holiday (1974)
  • Jeff Beck – Blow by Blow (1975)
  • America – Hearts (1975)
  • America – Hideaway (1976)
  • American Flyer – American Flyer (1976)
  • Jeff Beck – Wired (1976)
  • Jimmy Webb – El Mirage (1977)
  • America – Harbor (1977)
  • Cheap Trick – All Shook Up (1980)
  • UFO – No Place to Run (1980)
  • Little River Band – Time Exposure (1981)
  • Ultravox – Quartet (1982)
  • Paul McCartney – Tug of War (1982)
  • Paul McCartney – Pipes of Peace (1983)
  • Paul McCartney – Give My Regards to Broad Street (1984)
  • Andy Leek – Say Something (1988)
  • Yoshiki – Eternal Melody (1993)
  • Tommy (Original Cast Recording) (1993)
  • Celine Dion – Let’s Talk About Love (1997)
  • George Martin – In My Life (1998)
  • The Beatles – Love (2006)
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Musicians

Pablo Casals

12/28/2013
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Pau Casals i Defilló (Catalan: [ˈpaw kəˈzaɫz i dəfiˈʎo]; December 29, 1876 – October 22, 1973), known during his professional career as Pablo Casals, was a Catalan cellist and conductor. He is generally regarded as the pre-eminent cellist of the first half of the 20th century, and one of the greatest cellists of all time. He made many recordings throughout his career, of solo, chamber, and orchestral music, also as conductor, but he is perhaps best remembered for the recordings of the Bach Cello Suites he made from 1936 to 1939.

 

Biography

Childhood and early years

Casals began studying music under the tutelage of his father, Carles Casals i Ribes (1852–1908). He gave Casals instruction in piano, song, violin, and organ. When Casals was young his father would pull the piano out from the wall and have him and his brother, Artur, stand behind it and name the notes and the scales that his father was playing. At age four Casals could play the violin, piano and flute; at the age of six he played the violin well enough to perform a solo in public. His first encounter with a cello-like instrument was from witnessing a local traveling Catalan musician, who played a cello-strung broom handle. Upon request, his father built him a crude cello, using a gourd as a sound-box. When Casals was eleven, he first heard the real cello performed by a group of traveling musicians, and decided to dedicate himself to the instrument.

 

In 1888 his mother, Pilar Defilló de Casals, took Pablo Casals to Barcelona, where he enrolled in the Escola Municipal de Música. There he studied cello, theory, and piano. In 1890, when he was 13, he discovered in a second-hand sheet music store in Barcelona a tattered copy of Bach’s six cello suites. He spent the next 13 years practicing them every day before he would perform them in public for the first time. Casals would later make his own version of the six suites. He made prodigious progress as a cellist; on February 23, 1891 he gave a solo recital in Barcelona at the age of fourteen. He graduated from the Escola with honors five years later.

 

Youth and studies

A young Pau Casals seen by Ramon Casas

 

In 1893, Catalan composer Isaac Albéniz heard Pablo Casals playing in a trio in a café and gave him a letter of introduction to the Count Guillermo Morphy, the private secretary to María Cristina, the Queen Regent. Casals was asked to play at informal concerts in the palace, and was granted a royal stipend to study composition at the Real Conservatorio de Música y Declamación in Madrid with Víctor Mirecki. He also played in the newly organized Quartet Society.

 

In 1895 Casals went to Paris, where, having lost his stipend from Catalonia, he earned a living by playing second cello in the theater orchestra of the Folies Marigny. In 1896, he returned to Catalonia and received an appointment to the faculty of the Escola Municipal de Música in Barcelona. He was also appointed principal cellist in the orchestra of Barcelona’s opera house, the Liceu. In 1897 he appeared as soloist with the Madrid Symphony Orchestra, and was awarded the Order of Carlos III from the Queen.

 

International career

In 1899, Casals played at The Crystal Palace in London, and later for Queen Victoria at Osborne House, her summer residence, accompanied by Ernest Walker.  On November 12, and December 17, 1899, he appeared as a soloist at Lamoureux Concerts in Paris, to great public and critical acclaim. He toured Spain and the Netherlands with the pianist Harold Bauer in 1900–1901; in 1901–1902 he made his first tour of the United States; and in 1903 toured South America.

On January 15, 1904, Casals was invited to play at the White House for President Theodore Roosevelt. On March 9, of that year he made his debut at Carnegie Hall in New York, playing Richard Strauss‘s Don Quixote under the baton of the composer. In 1906, he became associated with the talented young Portuguese cellist Guilhermina Suggia, who studied with him and began to appear in concerts as Mme. P. Casals-Suggia, although they were not legally married. Their relationship ended in 1912.

The New York Times of April 9, 1911 announced that Casals would perform at the London Musical Festival to be held at the Queen’s Hall on the second day of the Festival (May 23). The piece chosen was Haydn‘s Cello Concerto in D and Casals would later join Fritz Kreisler for Brahms‘s Double Concerto for Violin and Cello.

 

In 1914 Casals married the American socialite and singer Susan Metcalfe; they were separated in 1928, but did not divorce until 1957.

Although Casals made his first recordings in 1915 (a series for Columbia), he would not release another recording until 1926 (on the Victor label).

Back in Paris, Casals organized a trio with the pianist Alfred Cortot and the violinist Jacques Thibaud; they played concerts and made recordings until 1937. Casals also became interested in conducting, and in 1919 he organized, in Barcelona, the Pau Casals Orchestra and led its first concert on October 13, 1920. With the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936, the Orquesta Pau Casals ceased its activities.

Casal had a notable chamber music concert of in the White House on November 13, 1961, at the invitation of President John F. Kennedy, whom he admired. On December 6, 1963, Casals was awarded the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Throughout most of his professional career, he played on a cello that was labeled and attributed to “Carlo Tononi … 1733″ but after he had been playing it for 50 years it was discovered to have been created by the Venetian luthier Matteo Goffriller around 1700. It was acquired by Casals in 1913. He also played another cello by Goffriller dated 1710, and a Tononi from 1730.

Prades Festivals

In 1950 he resumed his career as conductor and cellist at the Prades Festival in Conflent, organized in commemoration of the bicentenary of the death of Johann Sebastian Bach; Casals agreed to participate on condition that all proceeds were to go to a refugee hospital in nearby Perpignan.

In 1952, Casals met Marta Angélica Montañez y Martinez, a 17-year-old Puerto Rican student who had gone to Spain to participate in the Festival. Casals was very impressed with her and encouraged her to return to Mannes College of Music in New York to continue her studies. He continued leading the Prades Festivals until 1966.

Puerto Rico

Casals traveled extensively to Puerto Rico in 1955, inaugurating the annual Casals Festival the next year. In 1955 Casals married as his second wife long-time associate Francesca Vidal de Capdevila, who died that same year. In 1957, at age 80, Casals married 20-year-old Marta Montañez y Martinez.  He is said to have dismissed concerns that marriage to someone 60 years his junior might be hazardous to his health by saying, “I look at it this way: if she dies, she dies.”  Pablo and Marta made their permanent residence in the town of Ceiba, and lived in a house called “El Pessebre” (The Manger).  He made an impact in the Puerto Rican music scene, by founding the Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra in 1958, and the Conservatory of Music of Puerto Rico in 1959.

Later years

In the 1960s, Casals gave many master classes throughout the world in places such as Gstaad, Zermatt, Tuscany, Berkeley, and Marlboro (where he also conducted and recorded unique versions of the six Brandenburg Concerti). Several of these master classes were televised.

 

In 1961, he performed at the White House by invitation of President Kennedy. This performance was recorded and released as an album.

Casals was also a composer. Perhaps his most effective work is La Sardana, for an ensemble of cellos, which he composed in 1926. His oratorio El Pessebre was performed for the first time in Acapulco, Mexico, on December 17, 1960. He also presented it to the United Nations during their anniversary in 1963. He was initiated as an honorary member of the Epsilon Iota Chapter of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia music fraternity at The Florida State University in 1963.  He was later awarded the fraternity’s Charles E. Lutton Man of Music Award in 1973.

One of his last compositions was the “Hymn of the United Nations”. He conducted its first performance in a special concert at the United Nations on October 24, 1971, two months before his 95th birthday. On that day, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, U Thant, awarded Pau Casals the U.N. Peace Medal in recognition of his stance for peace, justice and freedom.  Casals accepted the medal and made his famous “I am a Catalan” speech, where he stated that Catalonia had the first democratic parliament, long before England did.

Casals’ memoirs were taken down by Albert E. Kahn, and published as Joys and Sorrows: Pablo Casals, His Own Story (1970).

Death

Casals died in 1973 in San Juan, Puerto Rico, at the age of 96 and was buried at the Puerto Rico National Cemetery. He did not live to see the end of the Franco dictatorial regime, but he was posthumously honored by the Spanish government under King Juan Carlos I which in 1976 issued a commemorative postage stamp depicting Casals, in honor of the centenary of his birth. In 1979 his remains were interred in his hometown of El Vendrell, Catalonia. In 1989, Casals was posthumously awarded a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

 

Legacy

Centenary statue, by Josep Viladomat Montserrat

The International Pablo Casals Cello Competition is held in Kronberg and Frankfurt am Main, Germany, under the auspices of the Kronberg Academy once every four years, starting in 2000, to discover and further the careers of the future cello elite, and is supported by the Pau Casals Foundation, under the patronage of Marta Casals Istomin. One of the prizes is the use of one of the Gofriller cellos owned by Casals. The first top prize was awarded in 2000 to Claudio Bohórquez.

American comedian George Carlin, in his interview for the Archive of American Television, refers to Casals when discussing the restless nature of an artist’s persona. As Carlin states, when Casals (then aged 93) was asked why he continued to practice the cello three hours a day, Casals replied, “‘I’m beginning to notice some improvement…’ [A]nd that’s the thing that’s in me. I notice myself getting better at this,” Carlin continued.

 

In Puerto Rico, the Casals Festival is still celebrated annually. There is also a museum dedicated to the life of Casals located in Old San Juan. On October 3, 2009, Sala Sinfonica Pablo Casals, a symphony hall named in Casals’ honor, opened in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The $34 million building, designed by Rodolfo Fernandez, is the latest addition to the Centro de Bellas Artes complex. It is the new home of the Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra.

In Tokyo, the Casals Hall opened in 1987 as a venue for chamber music. Pablo Casals Elementary School in Chicago, Illinois, USA is named in his honor.

Casals’ motet O vos omnes, composed in 1932, is frequently performed today.

References

1. Wikipedia

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Musicians

Curtis Mayfield

12/26/2013
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Curtis Mayfield (June 3, 1942 – December 26, 1999) was an American soul, R&B, and funk singer, songwriter, and record producer. He achieved success with The Impressions during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and recorded the soundtrack to the blaxploitation film Super Fly, Mayfield is 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. Mayfield is a winner of both the Grammy Legend Award (in 1994) and the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award (in 1995), and he was a double inductee into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, inducted as a member of The Impressions into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991, and again in 1999 as a solo artist. He is also a two-time Grammy Hall of Fame inductee.

 

 

Early years and The Impressions

Born on June 3, 1942 in Chicago, Illinois, Curtis Mayfield was the son of Marion Washington and Curtis Mayfield aka Kenneth Washington. Mayfield’s father left 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.

Two significant characteristics distinguish Mayfield’s sound. First, he taught himself how to play guitar, tuning it to the black keys of the piano, thus giving him an open F-sharp tuning—F#, A#, C#, F#, A#, F#—that he used throughout his career. Second, he primarily sang in falsetto register, adding another flavor to his music. This was not unique in itself, but most singers sing primarily in the modal register.

Mayfield’s career began in 1956 when he joined The Roosters with Arthur and Richard Brooks and Jerry Butler. Two years later The Roosters, now including also Sam Gooden, became The Impressions. The band had one big hit with “For Your Precious Love”. After Butler left the group and was replaced with Fred Cash, (a returning original Roosters member), Mayfield became lead singer, frequently composing for the band, starting with “Gypsy Woman“, a Top 20 Pop hit. Their hit “Amen,” (Top 10), an updated version of an old gospel tune, was included in the soundtrack of the 1963 MGM film Lilies of the Field, which starred Sidney Poitier. The Impressions reached the height of their popularity in the mid-to-late-’60s with a string of Mayfield compositions that included “Keep on Pushing,” “People Get Ready“, “It’s All Right” (Top 10), the uptempo “Talking about My Baby”(Top 20), “Woman’s Got Soul”, “Choice of Colors,”(Top 20), “Fool For You,” “This is My Country” and “Check Out Your Mind.” Mayfield had written much of the soundtrack of the civil rights movement in the early 1960s, but by the end of the decade he was a pioneering voice in the black pride movement along with James Brown and Sly Stone. Mayfield’s “We’re a Winner“, a Number 1 soul hit which also reached the Billboard pop Top 20, became an anthem of the black power and black pride movements when it was released in late 1967, much as his earlier “Keep on Pushing” (whose title is quoted in the lyrics of “We’re a Winner” and also in “Move On Up“) had been an anthem for Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement.

Mayfield was a prolific songwriter in Chicago even outside his work for The Impressions, writing and producing scores of hits for many other artists. He also owned the Mayfield and Windy C labels which were distributed by Cameo-Parkway, and was a partner in the Curtom (first independent, then distributed by Buddah then Warner Bros and finally RSO) and Thomas labels (first independent, then distributed by Atlantic, then independent again and finally Buddah).

Among Mayfield’s greatest songwriting successes were three hits for Jerry Butler on Vee Jay. His harmony vocals are very prominent (“He Will Break Your Heart”, “Find Another Girl” and “I’m A-Tellin’ You”). He also had great success writing and arranging Jan Bradley’s “Mama Didn’t Lie”. Starting in 1963, he was heavily involving in writing and arranging for OKeh Records (with Carl Davis producing), which included hits by Major Lance, Billy Butler and The Artistics. This arrangement ran through 1965.

 

Solo career

In 1970, Curtis Mayfield left The Impressions and began a solo career, founding the independent record label Curtom Records. Curtom went on to release most of Mayfield’s landmark 1970s records, as well as records by the Impressions, Leroy HutsonThe Staple SingersMavis Staples, and Baby Huey and the Babysitters, a group which at the time included Chaka Khan. Many of these records were also produced by Mayfield.

The commercial and critical peak of his solo career came with his music Record album Super Fly, the soundtrack to the blaxploitation film of the same name, and one of the most influential albums in African-American history. Unlike the soundtracks to other blaxploitation films (most notably Isaac Hayes‘ score for Shaft), which glorified the ghetto excesses of the characters, Mayfield’s lyrics consisted of hard-hitting commentary on the state of affairs in black, urban ghettos at the time, as well as direct criticisms of several characters in the film. Bob Donat wrote in Rolling Stone Magazine in 1972 that while the film’s message “was diluted by schizoid cross-purposes” because it “glamorizes machismo-cocaine consciousness… the anti-drug message on [Mayfield’s soundtrack] is far stronger and more definite than in the film.” Along with Marvin Gaye‘s What’s Going On and Stevie Wonder‘s Innervisions, this album ushered in a new socially conscious, funky style of popular soul music. He was dubbed ‘The Gentle Genius’ to reflect his outstanding and innovative musical output with the constant presence of his soft yet insistent vocals. The single releases “Freddie’s Dead” and “Super Fly” both sold over one million copies each, and were awarded gold discs by the R.I.A.A.

Super Fly brought success that resulted in Curtis Mayfield being tapped for additional soundtracks, some of which he wrote and produced while having others perform the vocals. Gladys Knight & the Pips recorded Mayfield’s soundtrack for Claudine in 1974, while Aretha Franklin recorded the soundtrack for Sparkle in 1976. Mayfield also worked with The Staples Singers on the soundtrack for the 1975 film Let’s Do It Again, and teamed up with Mavis Staples exclusively on the 1977 film soundtrack A Piece of the Action (both movies were part of a trilogy of films that featured the acting and comedic exploits of Bill Cosby and Sidney Poitier and were directed by Poitier). While Mayfield felt he was in danger of overreaching himself being writer, producer, performer, arranger and businessman, he nonetheless seemed to cope and still produce a remarkable output.

One of Curtis Mayfield’s most successful funk-disco meldings was the 1977 hit “Do Do Wap is Strong in Here” from his soundtrack to the Robert M. Young film of Miguel Piñero‘s play Short Eyes. In his 2003 biography of Curtis Mayfield, titled “People Never Give Up”, author Peter Burns noted that Curtis has 140 songs in the Curtom vaults. Burns indicated that the songs maybe already completed or in the stages of completion, so that they could then be released commercially. These recordings include “The Great Escape”, “In The News”, “Turn up the Radio”, “Whats The Situation?” and one recording labelled “Curtis at Montreux Jazz Festival 87”. Two other albums, featuring Curtis Mayfield present in the Curtom vaults and as yet unissued are, a 1982/83 live recording titled “25th Silver Anniversary” (which features performances by Curtis, The Impressions and Jerry Butler) and a live performance, recorded in September 1966 by The Impressions titled ‘Live at the Club Chicago’.

In later years, Mayfield’s music would be included in the movies I’m Gonna Git You SuckaHollywood ShuffleFriday (though not on the soundtrack), and Short Eyes (1977) where he had a cameo role as a prisoner.

Social activism

Curtis Mayfield was known for introducing social consciousness into African American music as well as R&B and wrote songs protesting social and political inequality. He wrote and recorded the soundtrack to the blaxploitation film, Super Fly with The Impressions. Super Fly is regarded as an all-time great body of work that influenced many and truly invented a new style of modern black music. Just as the Civil Rights Act passed into law in 1964, his group The Impressions produced music that became the soundtrack to a summer of revolution. Black students sang their songs as they marched to jail or protested outside their universities, while King often marched to the peaceful sounds of Mayfield’s Keep On Pushing, People Get Ready and We’re A Winner. Mayfield had quickly become a civil rights hero.

Curtis Mayfield, along with several other soul and funk musicians, spread messages of hope in the face of oppression, pride in being a member of the black race and gave courage to a generation who were demanding their human rights. Mayfield has been compared to Martin Luther King Jr arguably for making a greater lasting impact in the civil rights struggle with his music. By the end of the decade he was a pioneering voice in the black pride movement along with James Brown and Sly Stone. Paving the way for a future generation of rebel thinkers, Mayfield paid the price, artistically and commercially, for his politically charged music. Irrespective of the persistent radio bans and loss of revenue, Mayfield continued his quest for equality right until his death. His lyrics on racial injustice, poverty and drugs became the poetry for a generation. Mayfield was also a descriptive social commentator. As the influx of drugs ravaged through black America in the late 1960s and 1970s his bittersweet descriptions of the ghetto would serve as warnings to the impressionable. Determined to warn all about the perils of drugs, “Freddie’s Dead” is a graphic tale of street life. In 1965, another gospel song emerged – “People Get Ready” by Mayfield and the Impressions. “Keep On Pushing” and “People Get Ready” were two songs that became embedded in the national movement for civil and social rights, heard at all the rallies and marches, songs-as-inspiration. His song “People Get Ready” was written in the year after the march on Washington’s. For many, it captured the spirit of the march—the song reaches across racial and religious lines to offer a message of redemption and forgiveness. 

Mayfield produced many of the songs that helped shape and define the Black Power Movement, and exemplify the workings of music in the BPM and their 1967 song “We’re a Winner” can be seen as one defining element of the movement. Mayfield’s uncompromising look at racism and his calls for black pride and economic determinism place him firmly within the BPM. Significantly, when he and his friend Eddie Thomas founded the Curtom record label to protect black artists from the exploitation that they often suffered with other record labels, not only was the BPM ideal of black entrepreneurship realized but also the BPM had a record label that was synonymous with Black Power. Empowered in part by the ownership of his own label and in part by his affiliations with other artists, Mayfield presented a crucial look at American racism in “This is My Country” with lyrics that spoke of ‘three hundred years of slave driving, sweat and welts on my back’. ‘We’re a Winner’ conveys the essential ideological message of the BPM. By the time We’re a Winner was recorded, the BPM was a powerful, complex movement that incorporated politics, capitalism, internationalism and the arts that had its roots in the social circumstances and political opportunities of the post-World War II era. The title itself was a strong statement against inferiority complexes historically propagated among blacks by power brokers representing white social and cultural values, but the lyrics offer more than a critique – they offer an affirmative view of black culture that could foster mobilization and sustain political action under even threatening circumstances. Music, as exemplified by Curtis Mayfield, was to foster mobilization by presenting the political ideology of Black Power that enforced notions of black pride, but it also offered a venue for the creation of black culture that was not defined by the dominant white culture.

Later years and death

Curtis Mayfield was active throughout the 1970s and 1980s, though he had a somewhat lower public profile in the 1980s. On August 13, 1990, Mayfield was paralyzed from the neck down after stage lighting equipment fell on him at an outdoor concert at Wingate Field in Flatbush, Brooklyn, New York. He was unable to play guitar, but he wrote, sang, and directed the recording of his last album, New World Order. Mayfield’s vocals were painstakingly recorded, usually line-by-line while lying on his back.

Curtis Mayfield received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1995. In February 1998, he had to have his right leg amputated owing to diabetes. Mayfield was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame on March 15, 1999. Health reasons prevented him from attending the ceremony, which included fellow inductees Paul McCartney, Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, Dusty Springfield, George Martin, and 1970s Curtom signee and labelmate The Staple Singers.

His last appearance on record was with the group Bran Van 3000 on the song “Astounded” for their album Discosis, recorded just before his death and released in 2001.

Curtis Mayfield died from diabetes on December 26, 1999 at the North Fulton Regional Hospital in Roswell, Georgia; his health having steadily declined following his paralysis.

Awards and legacy

Mayfield has left a remarkable legacy for his introduction of social consciousness into R&B and for pioneering the funk style. Many of his recordings with the Impressions became anthems of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, and his most famous album, Super Fly, is regarded as an all-time great that influenced many and truly invented a new style of modern black music.

  • Mayfield’s solo Super Fly is ranked No. #69 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
  • The Impressions’ album/CD The Anthology 1961–1977 is ranked at No. 179 on Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of the 500 Greatest Albums of all time.
  • As a member of The Impressions, he was posthumously inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2003.
  • Along with his group The Impressions, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991.
  • In 1999, he was inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a solo artist making him one of the few artists to become double inductees.
  • In 1999, he found himself inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame just prior to his death.
  • He was a winner of the prestigious Grammy Legend Award in 1994.
  • He received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1995.
  • He is a 2-time Grammy Hall of Fame inductee: for the song People Get Ready with The Impressions, and for the award-winning album Super Fly as a solo artist.
  • The Impressions’ 1965 hit song, “People Get Ready”, composed by Mayfield, has been chosen as one of the Top 10 Best Songs Of All Time by a panel of 20 top industry songwriters and producers, including Paul McCartney, Brian Wilson, Hal David, and others, as reported to Britain’s Mojo music magazine.
  • The Impressions hits, People Get Ready and For Your Precious Love are both ranked on Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, as No. 24 and No. 327 respectively.
  • In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked Mayfield No. 98 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.
  • Curtis Mayfield’s song “P.S. I Love You” was sampled at the end of 2007 film, Superbad.
  • Mayfield is ranked No. 34 on Rolling Stone Magazine’s the list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time
  • Mayfield is currently nominated on the 56th Grammy Awards for Song Of The Year with “Same Love“, performed by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis featuring Mary Lambert, due to the duo sampling the piano from “People Get Ready”.

Curtis Mayfield Filmography

References

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