Each week on Rear-view Mirror, Rich Terfry and the Radio 2 team look back at a great R&B/soul song from the good ol’ days.
In 1972, Curtis Mayfield did something astonishing. He pulled off a move creatively and philosophically subversive, that simultaneously changed minds, music and his own status as a musician. Mayfield was given the task of creating a soundtrack to a film he didn't particularly like.
Super Fly is a blacksploitation film that takes an ambiguous view of drug dealers, street crime and their effect on the community, and Mayfield didn't like that.
While writing songs for the film he also went to war against it and its negative message. Mayfield wrote socially aware lyrics about poverty and drug abuse and spoke for the victims of crimes rather than the criminals committing them, who were dipicted as heroes in the film. It was a huge risk, but not only did Mayfield get away with it, it paid off in a big way.
The soundtrack for Super Fly is one of the only soundtracks to make more money than the film it accompanies. It was a huge hit, and Mayfield, who was already a well respected and successful musician, became a superstar. It's an extremely rare case of biting the hand that feeds actually working out for the best.
Here's what is sounds like: "Freddy's Dead," from the Super Fly Soundtrack by Mayfield.
Listen to moments from the film and the full version of Rear-View Mirror.
More in this series:
Rear-view Mirror: Roberta Flack's 'Killing Me Softly With His Song'
Rear-view Mirror: James Brown’s ‘Papa's Got a Brand New Bag’
Rear-view Mirror: Gladys Knight and the Pips' 'Midnight Train to Georgia'
Rear-view Mirror: Bobby Womack, reluctant star
Rear-view Mirror: The Supremes trip into psychedelic pop
Rear-view Mirror: Otis Redding's swan song
Rear-view Mirror: Aretha Franklin's curse of success
Rear-view Mirror: Ray Charles struggles with heroin
Rear-view mirror: The Coasters write veiled protest song
on Jul 18, 2012