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Nelson George on Superfly
04/13/2009, 10:38 PM
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superfly-cover

Curtis Mayfield’s SuperFly is an album that moved me when I was a teenager and excites me as a grown ass man. The arrangements are complex, the rhythms thick, the melodies infectious, the lyrics streetwise, sexy & sad, and Mayfield projects a wide range of emotion from a rather limited vocal range. Prior to SuperFly Mayfield has been best known as a singer-songwriter of heartfelf civil rights anthems for The Impressions and himself. With SuperFly he joined the ranks of soul producer-writers like Isaac Hayes, Willie Hutch and Marvin Gaye, who used blaxploitation soundtracks to expand the range of their work.

I saw this movie in Times Square back when it was still down & dirty, and this tale of a New York coke dealer Priest was influential in storytelling, style and score. Listening to it recently, years after hip-hop has used SuperFly‘s themes and sampled it liberally, Mayfield’s masterpiece holds up.

Give Me Your Love” still makes me wanna get with a girl in a bathtub. The hook on “No Thing On Me (Cocaine Song)” is as addictive as doing lines in a nightclub restroom. The title song has one of the great intros and rhythm arrangements in black pop history. With the legendary Johhny Pate helping with arrangements and a all-star team of Chicago session cats holding Mayfield down, SuperFly stands up next to Shaft and What’s Going On? as one of the greatest albums of the early ’70s, a period which was a high point in soul/funk.- Nelson George

Nelson George is an author and filmmaker. His memoir, City Kid (Viking Press), was just published, and his directorial debut, Life Support with Queen Latifah, is available on dvd. His short films can be seen via www.vimeo.com/nelsongeorge. You can also contact him at www.nelsondgeorge.net. He wrote this exclusively for NERDTORIOUS.

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