Black History Month: Curtis Mayfield's music is as relevant as ever | Features | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Black History Month: Curtis Mayfield's music is as relevant as ever

Curtis Mayfield chronicled the Black experience in '60s America

Part of Pittsburgh City Paper's month-long celebration of Black History Month
Heralded as one of the most influential and politically conscious musicians of his time, Curtis Mayfield’s music is an elegant juxtaposition of sadness, hope, and social commentary. Throughout his professional career, Mayfield detailed the tragedy he witnessed firsthand, growing up in 1950s Chicago public housing.

Mayfield’s catalog is a document to Black history, unequivocally chronicling the inequality that permeated the ’60s and ’70s. But if you were to remove the funk, soul, and R&B notes and rhythms indicative of that time, much of the lyrics remains relevant today.

The harsh reality of these vignettes would be almost impossible to digest without the hope Mayfield injects into all of his songs through sturdy symphonic arrangements and his dulcet delivery, like in his 1970 song “The Other Side of Town.”

“Depression is part of my mind/
The sun never shines/
On the other side of town.
The need here is always for more/
There’s nothing good in store/
On the other side of town.”

Mayfield won a Grammy Legend Award, a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, is a double inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (Impressions and as a solo). He is also a two-time Grammy Hall of Fame inductee.

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