Day 23 of the #mayvinylchallenge (which was yesterday, I know) asked for a soundtrack. I was considering the other amazing 1972 soundtrack album by a titan of r&b and soul, but while doing yardwork that opening riff to “Pusherman” came on and I really had no choice. So let’s spend a few minutes talking about Curtis Mayfield and how the soundtrack to Super Fly is not only one fo the best soundtracks of all time, but one of the best albums, period.
My exposure to Curtis Mayfield started with Fishbone, who covered “Freddie’s Dead” on Truth and Soul, an album I’ll go to bat for as one father best rock albums of the last 40 years. I was 17, and just starting to stretch my wings when it came to music. Fishbone led to rock/fun acts like Parliament/Funkadelic, which in turn led to the whole revolution of soul and funk like Mayfield, Marvin Gaye, Isaac Hayes, Al Green, Sam and Dave, the Temptations…on and on. But Mayfield grabbed me in a different way. His incredible voice, coupled with subtle but passionate and intense hooks went further, and struck harder than other artists of the same ilk. If you haven’t heard his Curtis Live double album, check that out: the way his music moves and engages the audience feels similar to what happens when I listen to him.
I’m not sure if the soundtrack to Super Fly is his best album, but it might be. Composed equally of incredible vocal numbers as well as instrumentals, the album moves through an arc similar to the movie. The whole of Side 1 might be un-beatable: “Little Child Runnin’ Wild” to “Pusherman” to Freddie’s Dead,” finally ending with the instrumental “Junkie Chase.” Mayfield’s songwriting has tightened up a considerable degree, landing each hook and line with the force of a hurricane. Melody lines interweave to make the entire experience cohesive. If Side 2 pales it’s only because Side 1 is so strong: you still have tracks like “Give Me Your Love (Love Song)” and of course the closing “Super Fly” to make the entire album unforgettable.
This is just simply one of the best pieces of music to have come out of human beings. Can you stand it? Can any of us?