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Move On Up

Episode 2 of 4

30 minutes
First broadcast:
Monday 18 January 2010

Lenny Kravitz continues to chart the life and career of Curtis Mayfield. The second episode, Move On Up, looks at Curtis' protest songs, chart success and his "blaxploitation" theme Superfly.

In 60s America, Curtis Mayfield's songs were taken up by Civil Rights Movement: Choice of Colors, My Country, I'm So Proud and We're a Winner, all with the Impressions. In 1970, Curtis launched his solo career with (Don't Worry) If There's A Hell Below We're All Going To Go, a protest song confronting ghetto life with a realism that had rarely been heard on record. He also toughened up his guitar work, incorporating some of the best features of psychedelic rock and funk.

In 1971 he enjoyed his biggest UK success with Move on Up, which reached number 12 but surprisingly did not chart in America. There, his commercial rise was maintained in 1972 with Freddie's Dead and the theme from Superfly, a "blaxploitation" movie that he scored. Drug deals, ghetto shootings, the deaths of young black men: all were described in detail. Yet Curtis' falsetto vocals, uplifting melodies, and funky arrangements gave the moralizing material a graceful strength. Both singles and the album achieved gold status, inspiring further excursions into film soundtracks, including Claudine, and Lets Do It Again.


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