Summer 1972: Curtis Mayfield Soundtracks 'Super Fly'

Curtis Mayfield
Photo Credit
Cover art

Curtis Mayfield was never shy about speaking up.

When he left the Impressions and unveiled Curtom, his very own record label, he fired away with masterful songs that only elevated his musical messages further, including "The Other Side of Town," "We the People Who Are Darker Than Blue," "Beautiful Brother of Mine" and "Miss Black America."

So it came as no surprise when the King of Conscious Soul was tapped to create the soundtrack for the 1972 blaxploitation film Super Fly as a new wave of black directors stepped forth to steer the direction of contemporary cinema. As the film's star, Ron O' Neal, expressed in an interview, “Super Fly is about people who don’t believe in the American Dream at all.”

The resulting soundtrack, Super Fly, marked Mayfield's third studio album as a solo artist. The soulful, political and raw collection of nine songs, produced and performed by Mayfield, quickly earned its reputation in its ability to bridge the gap between commercial entertainment and conscious truth with integrity, earning both critical acclaim and millions in sales. Tune in below for four funky facts about the landmark album.

4. On the Marvin Gaye influence on the album

Marvin Gaye had released his immortal album What's Going On the year prior, speaking directly to the hearts and minds of American society - including Mayfield. 

“I was very influenced by Marvin [Gaye’s] ‘What’s Going On’ album,” Mayfield recalled years later.  “When they asked me to do ‘Superfly,’ I was worried because I thought Marvin had already covered all the social commentary and soul music bases.”

READ MORE: Songs of Black Lives Matter: Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On"

3. On the soundtrack's top hits

The album spawned two million-selling Top Ten pop and R&B hits: “Superfly” and “Freddie’s Dead." continued the tradition of social commentary in popular black music and served as a subversive dissonant--a counter story to the story being played out on the screen.

“Superfly," the celebratory closing track to the album quickly made its name in the music world, further launching the trajectory of the blaxploitation genre as it dared to push forth conversations about hustling, blackness, pain and poverty. As Mayfield triumphantly sang about fortune and the supposed fast route to riches, the funk jam rose to No. 8 on the pop charts, No. 5 on the R&B charts and sold more than a million copies.

"Freddie's Dead" emerged as Super Fly's first single, giving the world a funk-filled view of the film that would soon hit theaters. And it wasn't pretty. Mayfield lyrics comb through the disturbing effect of systemic injustice in the states as he sang about commonality of Fat Freddie's in the American class system: “Everybody’s misused him / Ripped him off and abused him / Another junkie plan / Pushing dope for ‘the man."  In the movie, the song began playing when a character put the record on a turntable. 

2. On Mayfield's "Freddie's Dead" fury

In his book, “Traveling Soul the Life of Curtis Mayfield,” Mayfield’s son, Todd, revealed that his father was enraged when “Freddie’s Dead” lost out on a Best Original Song Academy Award nomination. The song was ruled ineligible because the version featured in the film didn’t include Mayfield’s vocals.

1. On the Mayfield effect on the film

Super Fly became a cornerstone in blaxploitation cinema, even replacing The Godfather out of the No. 1 spot on Variety's acclaimed Top Grossing Films List. The film initially grossed over $20 million dollars and became the highest-grossing blaxploitation film at the time. Super Fly, the soundtrack, would inspire the likes of Bobby Brown's Across 110th Street, James Brown's Black Caesar and more. 

Artist Name

Read More

David Redfern/Redferns
2021 Introduction: A semi-finalist up for induction into The SoulMusic Hall Of Fame ‘Lifetime Achievement’ category, the multi-talented Roy Ayers with six decades of recording and performing to his credits, has close to 40 albums to his credit and in recent years, his classic tracks have been consistently sampled by rap and hip-hop artists….
article column overlay
David Redfern/Redferns/Getty Images
TikTok is putting the 1981 Top 5 hit back on the map.
article column overlay
SoulMusic Records in association with Platinum Garage Recordings proudly presents "Too," the sophomore album by renowned singer/songwriter Clif Payne, featuring duets with Freda Payne and the UK Top 10 soul charted single, "Get Up, Get Busy". Produced by Preston Glass & Larry Batiste, distributed digitally worldwide via Warner X
article column overlay

Facebook Comments