3 Eternal Songs from the 1970s by Curtis Mayfield that Have Stood the Test of Time

Born on June 3, 1942, in Chicago, Curtis Mayfield is one of the most prolific soul songwriters and one of the genre’s best performers. That’s quite the one-two punch. Over his illustrious career, Mayfield wrote songs for Gladys Knight & the Pips, Aretha Franklin and many more. With his falsetto voice and sense of tactile rhythms, he soared in the 1970s.

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Here below, we wanted to explore three of Mayfield’s most timeless tracks. A trio of tunes that have stood the test of time and continue to feature on the airwaves, television shows, movies and home stereos alike. Indeed, these are three eternal songs from Curtis Mayfield.

[RELATED: The Best 20 Curtis Mayfield Quotes]

“Move on Up” from Curtis (1970)

Released on his debut 1970 LP Curtis, this song was later sampled by Kanye West on his 2006 album Late Registration. But beyond its use in more recent popular media, this percussive soul offering is about transcendence. Don’t let the world get you down, don’t let others tear at you. Instead, move on up and do right by yourself. On the elegant romp, Mayfield sings in his signature falsetto,

Hush now child
And don’t you cry
Your folks might understand you
By and by
Just move on up
Towards your destination
Though you may find, from time to time

Bite your lip
And take a trip
Though there may be wet road ahead
And you cannot slip
Just move on up
For peace you will find
Into the steeple of beautiful people
Where there’s only one kind

“Pusherman” from Super Fly (1972)

From the soundtrack to the hit 1972 film Super Fly, this song is about drug dealing and a drug dealer. But it’s not just the typical stereotype of a drug dealer—it’s all kinds, from the man in the alley to the doctor prescribing you what you need. Mayfield doesn’t discriminate on this track that uses drums and electric guitars with supreme mastery. On the offering, he sings,

I’m your mama, I’m your daddy
I’m that n—a in the alley
I’m your doctor when in need
Want some coke? Have some weed
You know me, I’m your friend
Your main boy, thick and thin

I’m your pusherman
I’m your pusherman

“Superfly” from Super Fly (1972)

Also from the 1972 soundtrack for Super Fly, this title track is all about popping your collar and realizing your power. It’s OK to appreciate yourself, what you bring to the table and what you can do—it’s OK (once in a while) to strut. This is the theme song for the moment, for that feeling. Sometimes we simply feel extraordinary. Sometimes we feel superfly! And Mayfield put this vibe to music on this track, on which he sings,

Darkest of night
With the moon shining bright
There’s a set goin’ strong
Lotta things goin’ on
The man of the hour
Has an air of great power
The dudes have envied him for so long

Oh, superfly
You’re gonna make your fortune by and by
But if you lose, don’t ask no questions why
The only game you know is do or die

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Photo by Gilles Petard/Redferns

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