Songwriters Friends



The Impressions provided a critical link between Fifties rhythm & blues and Sixties soul. They pioneered and epitomized the sound of Chicago soul, a marriage of gospel and pop influences with a timely conscience. From the beginning, leader Curtis Mayfield was an innovative songwriter and producer whose work with the Impressions was typified by sophisticated yet celebratory grooves, elaborately detailed vocal arrangements, and lyrics that addressed and advanced the black freedom movement of the Sixties. On the strength of such indelible songs of striving and transcendence as "People Get Ready," "Keep On Pushing," and "We're a Winner," Mayfield has been credited with authoring "the soundtrack to the civil-rights movement."

The Impressions came together as a union between Sam Gooden and brothers Richard and Arthur Brooks (members of a vocal group called the Roosters) and songwriter/producers Jerry Butler and Curtis Mayfield (of the Northern Jubilee Gospel Singers). Their debut single, "For Your Precious Love," was a masterpiece of dramatic, resonant soul testifying that sold 900,000 copies and rose to #11 on the Top Forty. Released in 1958, it was credited to "The Impressions Featuring Jerry Butler," and the spotlighting of the song's lead vocalist resulted in jealousies leading to Butler's departure that same year. For a few years thereafter the Impressions foundered, but they regained their footing and discovered their signature sound in the early Sixties with Mayfield in command. First, Mayfield cowrote and performed on "He Will Break Your Heart," a stately soul gem that became Jerry Butler's first solo hit. In 1961, a re-formed Impressions, which found Butler replaced by Fred Cash, released "Gypsy Woman," a marriage of Brazilian rhythms and sensuous soul distinguished by Mayfield's sweet, supple falsetto.

Having been reduced to a trio by the departure of the Brooks brothers, the Impressions soared through the Sixties with a string of chart successes that established the group as the social conscience of soul music. Their biggest hit was "It's All Right" (#1 R&B, #4 Pop), a casual, easygoing soul shuffle that provided much-needed comfort and solace to a nation reeling from the recent assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The Impressions songs that have had the greatest staying power are those, like "People Get Ready" and "Amen," that provided inspiration to those caught up in the social struggles of the Sixties. All the while, Mayfield's work outside the group as a songwriter and producer yielded a bumper crop of Chicago-soul hits for such artists as Major Lance ("The Monkey Time," "Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um") and Gene Chandler ("Just Be True," "Nothing Can Stop Me"). After leaving the Impressions in 1970, Mayfield addressed issues of black identity and self-assertiveness with an even greater sense of urgency as a solo artist. He founded his own Curtom label and connected with such topical fare as "(Don't Worry) If There's a Hell Below We're All Going to Go." His solo career found him giving freer reign to his guitar playing, a choppy, rhythm-based funk style that owed much to his Chicago blues heritage. (Among other things, Mayfield had played guitar on a few Jimmy Reed sessions.) Mayfield hit his creative and commercial peak in the Seventies with the soundtrack to Superfly, a blend of smoldering rock-disco grooves and pointed social commentary that yielded the Top Five hits "Freddie's Dead" and "Superfly."

Throughout his career, Mayfield's willingness to give voice to the truth - and the simultaneously dignified and funky ways in which he's musically cast forthright sentiments - have made him one of the great soul icons of the age. Mayfield was paralyzed from the neck down in a 1990 accident when a lighting tower fell on him prior to a show in New York. However, this tragic setback has not diminished his spirit or his career. In 1996, he released his 25th solo album, New World Order. In his own words: "How many 54-year-old quadriplegics are putting albums out? You just have to deal with what you got, try to sustain yourself as best you can, and look to the things that you can do." He died in 1999.

From the Rock Ní Roll Hall of Fame

Artists

American Quartet
Andrews Sisters
Louis Armstrong (Satchmo)
Fred Astaire
Chet Atkins
Gene Austin (Voice of the Southland)
Gene Autry
Nora Bayes
Brook Benton
Ben Bernie
Connee Boswell
Fanny Brice
Henry Burr
Cab Calloway
Glen Campbell
Albert Campbell
Carter Family (First Family of Country Music)
Enrico Caruso
Ray Charles
Patsy Cline
Larry Clinton
Rosemary Clooney
Nat Cole (King)
Arthur Collins
Perry Como
Bing Crosby
Bob Crosby
Frank Crumit
Vic Damone
Sammy Davis Jr.
Doris Day
Tommy Dorsey
Jimmy Dorsey
Cliff Edwards
Ruth Etting
Shep Fields
Eddie Fisher
Ella Fitzgerald
Tennessee Ernie Ford
Connie Francis
Aretha Franklin (Queen of Soul)
Lefty Frizzell
Jan Garber
Judy Garland
George J. Gaskin (The Silver Voice Irish Tenor)
Marvin Gaye
Benny Goodman (King of Swing)
Glen Gray
Byron G. Harlan
Marion Harris
Charles Harrison
Haydn Quartet
Dick Haymes
Horace Heidt
Woody Herman
Billie Holiday (Lady Day)
Whitney Houston
Eddy Howard
Ink Spots
Harry James
Lewis James
Al Jolson
Ada Jones
George Jones
Sammy Kaye
Hal Kemp
Wayne King (Waltz King)
Pee Wee King
Kay Kyser
Frankie Laine
Brenda Lee
Ted Lewis
Jerry Lee Lewis (The Killer)
Guy Lombardo
Vincent Lopez
Harry MacDonough
Freddy Martin
Dean Martin
Johnny Mathis
John McCormack
Glenn Miller
Mills Brothers
Vaughn Monroe
Russ Morgan
Billy Murray (The Denver Nightingale)
J.W. Myers
Ozzie Nelson
Olivia Newton-John
George Olsen
Original Dixieland Jazz Band
Vess L. Ossman (The King of the Banjo)
Buck Owens
Patti Page
Minnie Pearl
Peerless Quartet
Peter, Paul & Mary
Elvis Presley (The King)
Ray Price
Prince's Orchestra
Dan Quinn
Leo Reisman
Paul Robeson
Roy Rogers
Linda Ronstadt
Diana Ross
Ben Selvin
Artie Shaw
Nat Shilkret
Dinah Shore
Frank Sinatra
Bessie Smith (Empress of the Blues)
Sousa's Band
Len Spencer
Dusty Springfield
Jo Stafford
Frank Stanley
Kay Starr
Cal Stewart
Barbra Streisand
The 4 Seasons
The 5th Dimension
The Byrds
The Carter Family
The Commodores
The Drifters
The Everly Brothers
The Four Tops
The Impressions
The Miracles
The Platters
The Righteous Brothers
The Spinners
The Supremes
The Temptations
Ernest Tubb (Texas Troubadour)
Sophie Tucker
Van & Schenck
Walter Van Brunt
Sarah Vaughan
Fred Waring
Dionne Warwick
Ted Weems
Kitty Wells
Paul Whiteman
Margaret Whiting
Bert Williams
Andy Williams
Teddy Wilson
Tammy Wynette