Curtis Mayfield and the Black Rock Connection
While Curtis Mayfield was always been considered one of the greatest soul voices to come out of Chicago, his guitar playing was often so understated that rock fans used to the dramatics of Jimmy Page, Prince or Carlos Santana might be weary to cite him as an influence. Yet, since the days when he was still strumming an acoustic while singing churchy sounding songs “It’s All Right” and “Amen” with the Impressions, his playing was an influence on dudes like Clapton, Beck and Steve Winwood.
Another fan of the Impressions (and of Curtis’ guitar playing) was Jimi Hendrix. According to Jimi Hendrix: In His Own Words (Omnibus Press, 1994), the voodoo chile rocker once said, “I like the Impressions…they’re some people that need to be really, really respected. See, these are classical composers. I don’t care what their music sounds like today, because today, as things are happening at that particular time, the people that’s in that particular time don’t really know the value of it until it dies off. But now people really have to start learning the value of things as they’re living today.”
Almost makes you wish brother Jimi could’ve lived long enough to see Curtis throwing down with wah-wah, feedback, fuzz and other electro-gadgets that caused strange music to erupt from the speakers. Tracks like “Billy Jack,” Kung Fu,” “Future Shock” and “Freddy’s Dead” captured a whole new level of racial angst and musical distortion in his grooves and licks.
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