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"CAPTAIN BILLY’S MAGIC 8 BALL" - A New Series Created By William Mesnik, The Mind Behind “Mesmerized”- EPISODE # 20 - "COOL BY ASSOCIATION" FEATURING THE ALBUM "SUPERFLY" BY CURTIS MAYFIELD IN HIGH DEFINITION WITH NARRATIVE

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“CAPTAIN BILLY’S MAGIC 8 BALL

“COOL BY ASSOCIATION

EPISODE #20: SUPER FLY by Curtis Mayfield (1972, Curtom)

It was the heyday of “Blaxploitation.” Following the monster success of the film Gordon Parks’ SHAFT (and Isaac Haye’s soundtrack of the same name the year before), the floodgates were opened for ghetto stories about funky studs and foxy ladies. Films combining social messaging with sexy soundtracks became the golden paradigm, and the country was gifted with a full playlist of indelible music.

I must admit I never saw the film Super Fly, but man, did I ever have the soundtrack on constant rotation! Curtis Mayfield’s falsetto floated through my dreams, and, although I rarely was seen without my flannel shirts and Levis, I adopted a cool strut for the streets, a loping hitch to my walk that tried to signal that I was hip.

Clearly I was not alone; the Library of Congress has included the soundtrack into the national archives. Curtis said that he was influenced by Marvin Gaye’s masterpiece What’s Goin’ On, and when he was offered the chance to create his own soundscape for the story of Priest, the dealer who wants to quit the game, Mr. Mayfield set to work, producing a album of stirring ghetto snapshots which transcended the narrow confines of the Blaxploitation genre.

For the man who had influenced MLK with his gospel inspired People Get Ready, and had been discussing race consistently over the years on such classics as We Are the People Who Are Blacker Than Blue, this was a natural step; an opportunity to shine a light on systemic racism, and the government’s cynical “drug war” for a larger audience. It’s the brilliant technique of wrapping a bitter pill in an irresistibly tasty coating – and, it worked. He raised our consciousness and got us swinging our hips at the same time.

“Everybody’s misused him, ripped him up and abused him, another junkie plan, pushing dope for the man…” Curtis sang in Freddy’s Dead (which made it #4), and we all sang along. Given the unfortunate lack of social progress 50 years on, one might debate the effectiveness of the artist when it comes to realizing change, but we do what we can, and Curtis did it magnificently.


By Rich Buckland 07/25/2021 07:37 PM

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