Monday, March 31, 2008

Curtis Mayfield's "Move On Up"

I’ll never forget the first time I heard Curtis Mayfield’s healing epic "Move On Up". It was just before Christmas of 2000 and I was coming out of what had been easily the hardest and worst period of my life. It was the period when I really needed an artist like Curtis Mayfield to come into my life and it almost didn’t happen.
I was doing some last minute Christmas shopping and came across a copy of Mayfield’s first solo album in a sale bin. I still remember nearly passing it up, as I know it’s bad to buy yourself something before Christmas, but thankfully the price allowed my indulgence and I have been thankful ever since.
Mayfield’s first album, Curtis, is a wondrous affair and for those who haven’t heard it or don’t have it on CD, Rhino’s 2000 reissue of it is a must buy. I am always amazed to see any best of lists without it on there, but considering those lists often ignore soul and funks finest albums I suppose it shouldn’t be a surprise.
I was immediately captured by the album and recall listening to it that first time as I was driving over to my mom’s for the holidays. It had snowed maybe an inch but the sun had come out and it was disappearing as my commute from Lexington to Louisville went by as the album progressed. I still remember feeling profoundly sad and defeated as I was driving over due to the events that had struck me in the couple of years leading up to that day, events I won’t go into here, but it was a sober kind of depression that had been threatening to lift. I needed something to help it pass though.

The moment "Move On Up" first began for me was an incredible experience. I literally got goose bumps as Mayfield’s near ten-minute ode a brighter day began to take effect. I believe that the old adage that some music can have a deep healing power is true and that was (and is) the case with much of Mayfield’s music, with Move On Up being near the most curative.
I really needed something that morning to make me believe that everything was going to be okay and Curtis Mayfield’s marvelous track gave me that, and it still does to this day no matter how many thousands of times I have heard it. If I am feeling down, or if everything is just feeling hopeless, I play "Move On Up" to remind myself that not all is lost…the song is the sun suddenly breaking through a string of cloudy days.
I’m really grateful to Curtis for a lot of his music, especially "Move On Up". Apparently I am not the only one as I hear it all the time now, check the endings to both Bend It Like Beckham and the more recent Semi-Pro. The Jam of course did a pretty swell version of it as well and I always appreciated how fond Paul Weller was of the great Mayfield.

I was disturbed and disheartened recently to see ‘artist’ Kanya West pillaging Mayfield’s classic for his "Touch The Sky". It breaks my heart that many young people’s introduction to Mayfield’s rousing track is through this raping of it. Also add on that most of them probably don’t even know its Curtis Mayfield makes it even worst. I only hope Mayfield’s surviving family is seeing some major royalties as I am sure West has made more from his track than Curtis made in his entire career.
The original is still the best and if you have only heard the song courtesy of some soundtracks, pick up Curtis. The album, which was recorded in Chicago in 1970, remains one of the great works of the seventies and it can be found fairly cheaply in stores and online.


Rogue Spy 007 said...

I left comments on your other blog, so I won't repeat them. I did want to say once again I love this song. It is a shame that Mayfield's music doesn't get as much attention as it deserves. There's so much great soul and funk out there from the 1970's. I love this music.

Steve Langton said...

Great post, and proof positive that music really can make a difference. This really is a great song, and it was gratifying to see The Jam deliver a blistering version live on a few occasions although you can't beat the original.

Jeremy Richey said...

Thanks Keuth for your comments here and at Moseby...

Thanks Steve,
Agree on The Jam's version and I am sure even Paul would admit that he even he couldn't top Curtis...great stuff in both versions though...

peter said...

You REALLY should track down The Flying Lizards cover of Move On Up.

It's pure bliss.

eblenz13 said...

Although a lot people disagree with sampling and call it "raping" in a sense, it's probably the only way the younger generation will ever learn about incredible artists like Curtis Mayfield. When I was at Virgin Records a young guy about 15 years old asked me what Kanye West used for "Touch The Sky". I showed him the "Curtis" album (which was $9.99 on sale) and he immediately took 2 copies, one for his mom and one for himself. Unfortunately we don't have local radio stations that play this high quality music (in New York). To be honest I'm thankful someone that young took the time to read the credits and search for the album. In closing Kanye West may have reaped the benefits of this recording but through his work it's being re-discovered again and for that I'm thankful.