Charles Lane (born as Charles Gerstle Levison January 26, 1905 – July 9, 2007) was an American character actor seen in many movies and TV shows, and at the time of his death was the oldest living American actor. Lane appeared in many Frank Capra films, including Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Arsenic and Old Lace, and It's a Wonderful Life.
Cause of death: unknown (he was 102 years old at his death)
Christopher Michael Benoit (May 21, 1967 – June 24, 2007) was a Canadian professional wrestler who wrestled for Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW), World Championship Wrestling (WCW), and World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). Benoit ascended to the top of his profession, holding the World heavyweight championship in both WCW and WWE, becoming one of the most popular and respected competitors in professional wrestling in the process.
Chris Benoit's Death
On June 25, 2007, Benoit, his wife Nancy, and their 7-year-old son Daniel were found dead in their Fayetteville, Georgia, home at around 2:30 p.m. EDT. Lieutenant Tommy Pope of the Fayette County, Georgia Sheriff's Department reported to ABC News that police entered Benoit's home on a "welfare check" after several missed appointments, leading to concerns. Pope also stated the police were not searching for any suspects outside of the house, as the instruments of death were located at the scene of the crime.
Detective Bo Turner of the Fayette County Sheriff's Department told television station WAGA-TV that the case was being treated as a murder-suicide. The station reported that investigators believe that Benoit murdered his wife and son over the weekend and hanged himself sometime on Monday.
Claydes Charles Smith (September 6, 1948 – June 20, 2006) was an American musician best known as co-founder and lead guitarist of the group Kool & the Gang.
Born in Jersey City, New Jersey, he was introduced to jazz guitar by his father in the early 1960s.
Later in that decade he was in a group of New Jersey jazz musicians, including Ronald Bell (later Khalis Bayyan), Robert "Kool" Bell, George Brown, Dennis Thomas and Robert "Spike" Mickens, who became Kool & the Gang. Other members would include lead singer James "JT" Taylor.
Kool & the Gang grew from jazz roots in the 1960s to become one of the major groups of the 1970s, blending jazz, funk, R&B, and pop. Despite their popularity waning briefly, the group enjoyed a return to stardom during the 1980s.
Illness forced Smith to stop touring with the group in January 2006. He died in Maplewood, New Jersey.
Smith, who was known professionally as Charles Smith, wrote the hits "Joanna" and "Take My Heart," and was a co-writer of others, including "Celebration," "Hollywood Swinging," and "Jungle Boogie."
Smith is survived by his six children -- Claydes A. Smith, Justin Smith, Aaron Corbin, August Williams, Uranus Guray, and Tyteen Humes -- and nine grandchildren.
Claire Trevor (March 8, 1910 - April 8, 2000) was an Academy Award-winning American actress. Beautiful and talented, she was nicknamed the "Queen of Film Noir" because of her many appearances in "bad girl” roles in film noir and other black-and-white thrillers. She appeared in over 60 films.
Death of Claire Trevor
Claire Trevor died of respiratory failure in Newport Beach, April 8, 2000.
Claire Trevor was 90 years old at the time of her death.
Claire Trevor is survived by several stepchildren by her marriage to Bren. Claire Trevor was cremated and her remains were scattered at sea.
Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
1948 for Key Largo
Early life Trevor was born as Claire Wemlinger in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, New York, the only child of a 5th Avenue merchant-tailor and his wife. Her family was of Irish American and French American descent.
Early life Trevor was born as Claire Wemlinger in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, New York, the only child of a 5th Avenue merchant-tailor and his wife. Her family was of Irish American and French American descent.
Trevor's acting career spanned more than seven decades and included success in stage, radio, television and film. Trevor often played the hard-boiled blonde, and every conceivable type of "bad girl" role. After attending American Academy of Dramatic Arts, she began her acting career in the late '20s in stock. By 1932 she was starring on Broadway; that same year she began appearing in Brooklyn-filmed Vitaphone shorts. Her first credited film role was in the 1933 film Life in the Raw, with her feature film debut coming that same year in Jimmy and Sally (1933), with her portraying "Sally Johnson". From 1933 through 1938 Trevor starred in twenty nine films, often having either the lead role or the role of heroine. In 1937 she starred with Humphrey Bogart in Dead End, which would lead to her being nominated for Best Supporting Actress.
By 1939 she was well established as a solid "leading lady". Some of her most memorable performances during this period were opposite John Wayne, including the classic 1939 western Stagecoach, which was Wayne's breakthrough role. She also starred opposite Wayne in Allegheny Uprising that same year, and again in 1940 in Dark Command. Another two of her more memorable roles was when she starred in Murder, My Sweet opposite Dick Powell, and fellow film noir flick Born to Kill playing a divorcee who gets more than she bargained for by falling in love with a bad boy who impulsively murders.
Awards and nominations Trevor seemed to have her best performances when starring with either John Wayne or Humphrey Bogart. Of the Academy Award nominations and wins that she earned, two were starring opposite Bogart, and one was opposite Wayne. Although she was not nominated for an Academy Award for her performance in Wayne's 1939 breakthrough film, Stagecoach, the film itself received Academy Award nominations in four categories, winning two of them.
Her awards and accolades include;
She was nominated for Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for Dead End, a 1937 melodrama in which she played a good girl who grows up to be a prostitute, which co-starred Humphrey Bogart.
Trevor won the award for Best Supporting Actress for her 1948 performance in Key Largo, co-starring Humphrey Bogart, Edward G. Robinson and Lauren Bacall.
In 1956, Trevor won an Emmy for Best Live Television Performance by an Actress for Dodsworth, with Fredric March, on NBC's Producers' Showcase.
She was nominated again for an Academy Award for her performance in The High and the Mighty, a 1954 airplane disaster epic starring John Wayne.
The Claire Trevor School of the Arts at the University of California, Irvine was named in Trevor's honor. Both her Oscar and Emmy trophies are on display in the Arts Plaza there, next to the Claire Trevor Theatre.
She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Private life Trevor married film producer Clark Andrews in 1938, but they divorced four years later. Her second marriage to Cylos William Dunsmoore produced a son, Charles. The marriage ended in divorce in 1947. The next year, Trevor married Milton Bren, another film producer and soon after moved to Newport Beach, California.
In 1978 her only biological child, her son Charles Dunsmoore, died in an airliner crash and her last husband, Milton Bren, died from a brain tumor in 1979. Trevor retired from acting in 1987. She made a special Academy Awards Appearance in 1998 at the 70th Academy Awards.
She died of respiratory failure in Newport Beach, April 8, 2000 at the age of 90, survived by several stepchildren by her marriage to Bren. Claire Trevor was cremated and her remains were scattered at sea.
Dante's Inferno (1935)
15 Maiden Lane (1936)
Dead End (1937)
The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse (1938)
I Stole a Million (1939)
Allegheny Uprising (1939)
Dark Command (1940)
Honky Tonk (1941)
Street of Chance (1942)
Murder, My Sweet (1944)
Johnny Angel (1945)
Born to Kill (1947)
Raw Deal (1948)
The Velvet Touch (1948)
The Babe Ruth Story (1948)
Key Largo (1948)
Raw Deal (1948)
The High and the Mighty (1954)
The Mountain (1956)
Marjorie Morningstar (1958)
How to Murder Your Wife (1965)
Charles Monroe Schulz (November 26, 1922 – February 12, 2000) was a 20th-century American cartoonist best known worldwide for his Peanuts comic strip.
Charles M. Schulz was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and grew up in Saint Paul. He was the only child of Carl Schulz, who was German, and Dena, who was Norwegian. His uncle nicknamed him "Sparky" after the horse Spark Plug in the Barney Google comic strip.
Schulz attended St. Paul's Richard Gordon Elementary School, where he skipped two half-grades. He became a shy and isolated teenager, perhaps as a result of being the youngest in his class at Central High School.
Charles Schulz's death. Charles Schulz died in Santa Rosa of complications from colon cancer at 9:45 p.m. on February 12, 2000. Charles Schulz was 77 years old at the time of his death. He was interred in Pleasant Hills Cemetery in Sebastopol.
After his mother died in February 1943, he was drafted into the United States Army and was sent to Camp Campbell in Kentucky. He was shipped to Europe two years later to fight in World War II as an infantry squad patrol with the U.S. 20th Armored Division.
After leaving the army in 1945, he returned to Minneapolis where he took a job as an art teacher at Art Instruction, Inc. — he had taken correspondence courses before he was drafted. Schulz, before having his comics published, began doing lettering work for a Catholic comic magazine titled Timeless Topix, where he would rush back and forth from dropping off his lettering work and teaching at Art Instruction Schools, Inc.
Schulz's drawings were first published by Robert Ripley in his Ripley's Believe It or Not!. His first regular cartoons, Li'l Folks, were published from 1947 to 1950 by the St. Paul Pioneer Press; he first used the name Charlie Brown for a character there, although he applied the name in four gags to three different boys and one buried in sand. The series also had a dog that looked much like Snoopy. In 1948, Schulz sold a cartoon to the Saturday Evening Post; the first of seventeen single-panel cartoons by Schulz that would be published there. In 1948, Schulz tried to have Li'l Folks syndicated through the Newspaper Enterprise Association. Schulz would have been an independent contractor for the syndicate, unheard of in the 1940s, but the deal fell through. Li'l Folks was dropped in January, 1950.
Later that year, Schulz approached the United Feature Syndicate with his best strips from Li'l Folks, and Peanuts made its first appearance on October 2, 1950. The strip became one of the most popular comic strips of all time. He also had a short-lived sports-oriented comic strip called It's Only a Game (1957 – 1959), but abandoned it due to the demands of the successful Peanuts. From 1956 to 1965 he also contributed a single-panel strip ("Young Pillars") featuring teenagers to Youth, a publication associated with the Church of God (Anderson).
Charlie Brown, the principal character for Peanuts, was named after a co-worker at the Art Instruction Schools; he drew much of his inspiration, however, from his own life:
Like Charlie Brown, Schulz's father was a barber and his mother a housewife.
Schulz had a dog when he was a boy. Unlike Snoopy the beagle, it was a pointer. Eventually, it was revealed that Snoopy had a desert-dwelling brother named Spike.
Spike's residence, outside of Needles, California, was likely influenced by the few years (1928 – 1930) that the Schulz family lived there; they had moved to Needles to join other family members who had relocated from Minnesota to tend to an ill cousin.
Schulz was also shy and withdrawn.
Schulz's "Little Red-Haired Girl" was Donna Johnson, an Art Instruction Schools accountant with whom he had a relationship. She rejected his marriage proposal, but remained a friend for the rest of his life.
Linus and Shermy were both named for good friends of his (Linus Maurer and Sherman Plepler, respectively).
Lucy was inspired by Joyce Halverson, his first wife.
Peppermint Patty was inspired by Patricia Swanson, one of his cousins on his mother's side.
Schulz moved briefly to Colorado Springs, Colorado. He painted a wall in that home for his daughter Meredith, featuring Patty, Charlie Brown and Snoopy. The wall was removed in 2001 and donated to the Charles M. Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa, California. The restored artwork by Schulz is printed in the paperback edition of Chip Kidd's book Peanuts: The Art of Charles M. Schulz.
Schulz's family returned to Minneapolis and stayed until 1958. They then moved to Sebastopol, California, where Schulz built his first studio. It was here that Schulz was interviewed for the unaired television documentary A Boy Named Charlie Brown. Some of the footage was eventually used in a later documentary titled Charlie Brown and Charles Schulz. The original documentary is available on DVD from The Charles M. Schulz Museum.
Schulz's father died while visiting him in 1966, the same year his Sebastopol studio burned down. By 1969, Schulz had moved to Santa Rosa, California, where he lived and worked for more than 30 years.
Schulz had a long association with ice sports, as both figure skating and ice hockey featured prominently in his cartoons. In Santa Rosa, he was the owner of the Redwood Empire Ice Arena, which opened in 1969. Schulz's daughter Amy served as a model for the skating in the 1980 television special She's a Good Skate, Charlie Brown. Schulz also was very active in Senior Ice Hockey tournaments; in 1975, he formed Snoopy's Senior World Hockey Tournament at his Redwood Empire Ice Arena, and in 1981, Schulz was awarded the Lester Patrick Trophy for outstanding service to the sport of hockey in the United States. In 1998, he hosted the 1st ever Over 75 Hockey Tournament (although goalies could be younger - 60). In 2001, Saint Paul renamed The Highland Park Ice Arena the "Charles Schulz Arena" in his honor.
The first full-scale biography of Schulz, Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography, by David Michaelis, was released in October 2007. The book has been heavily criticized by the Schulz family, while Michaelis maintains that there is "no question" his work is accurate. However, fellow artist Bill Watterson (creator of Calvin & Hobbes) feels that the biography does justice to Schulz's legacy, while giving insight into the emotional impetus of the creation of the strips.
In light of David Michaelis' biography and the controversy surrounding his interpretation of the personality that was Charles Schulz, responses from his family reveal some intimate knowledge about the Schulz's persona beyond that of mere artist.
Peanuts ran for nearly 50 years without interruption and appeared in more than 2,600 newspapers in 75 countries. In November 1999 Schulz suffered a stroke, and later it was discovered that he had colon cancer that had metastasized to his stomach. Because of the chemotherapy and the fact he could not read or see clearly, he announced his retirement on December 14, 1999. This was difficult for Schulz, and he was quoted as saying to Al Roker on The Today Show, "I never dreamed that this would happen to me. I always had the feeling that I would stay with the strip until I was in my early eighties, or something like that. But all of sudden it's gone. I did not take it away. This has been taken away from me."
Schulz died in Santa Rosa of complications from colon cancer at 9:45 p.m. on February 12, 2000, at age 77. He was interred in Pleasant Hills Cemetery in Sebastopol.
The last original strip ran the day after his death. In it, a statement was included from Schulz that his family wished for the strip to end when he was no longer able to produce it. Schulz had previously predicted that the strip would outlive him, with his reason being that comic strips are usually drawn weeks before their publication. As part of his will, Schulz had requested that the Peanuts characters remain as authentic as possible and that no new comic strips based on them be drawn. United Features has legal ownership of the strip, but his wishes have been honored, although reruns of the strip are still being syndicated to newspapers. New television specials have also been produced since Schulz's death, but the stories are based on previous strips.
Schulz had been asked if, for his final Peanuts strip, Charlie Brown would finally get to kick that football after so many decades. His response: "Oh, no! Definitely not! I couldn't have Charlie Brown kick that football; that would be a terrible disservice to him after nearly half a century."
He was honored on May 27, 2000, by cartoonists of 42 comic strips paying homage to him and Peanuts.
Schulz received the National Cartoonist Society Humor Comic Strip Award in 1962 for Peanuts, the Society's Elzie Segar Award in 1980, their Reuben Award for 1955 and 1964, and their Milton Caniff Lifetime Achievement Award in 1999. He was also a hockey fan; in 1981, Schulz was awarded the Lester Patrick Trophy for outstanding contributions to the sport of hockey in the United States, and he was inducted into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame in 1993. On June 28, 1996, Schulz was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, adjacent to Walt Disney's. A replica of this star appears outside his former studio in Santa Rosa. Schulz is a recipient of the Silver Buffalo Award, the highest adult award given by the Boy Scouts of America, for his service to American youth.
On June 7, 2001 the United States Congress posthumously awarded Schulz the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honor the US legislature can award. Schulz's widow, Jean, accepted the award on behalf of her late husband.
Schulz was inducted into the United States Figure Skating Hall of Fame in 2007.
In 2000, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors rechristened the Charles M. Schulz - Sonoma County Airport in his honor. The airport's logo features Snoopy in goggles and scarf, taking to the skies on top of his red doghouse.
The Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center in Santa Rosa opened on August 17, 2002, two blocks away from his former studio and celebrates his life's work and art of cartooning. A bronze statue of Charlie Brown and Snoopy stands in Depot Park in downtown Santa Rosa.
The Jean and Charles Schulz Information Center at Sonoma State University is one of the largest libraries in the CSU system and the state of California with a 400,000 volume general collection and with a 750,000 volume automated retrieval system capacity. The $41.5 million building was named after Schulz and his wife donated a large sum of the money, $5 million, needed to build and furnish the structure. The library opened in 2000 and now stands as one of the largest buildings in the university.
Peanuts on Parade has been Saint Paul, Minnesota’s tribute to its favorite native cartoonist. It began in 2000 with the placing of 101 five-foot tall statues of Snoopy throughout the city of Saint Paul. Every summer for the next 4 years statues of a different Peanuts character were placed on the sidewalks of Saint Paul. In 2001 there was Charlie Brown Around Town, 2002 brought Looking for Lucy, then in 2003 along came Linus Blankets Saint Paul, ending in 2004 with Snoopy lying on his doghouse. The statues were auctioned off at the end of each summer, so some remain around the city but others have been relocated. Permanent, bronze statues of the Peanuts character are also found in Landmark Plaza in downtown Saint Paul.
For the past five years, Forbes Magazine has rated Schulz the second "highest paid deceased person" in America (after Elvis Presley), with his estate continuing to garner income totaling more than $32 million since his passing. According to the book "Where Are They Buried?" (as well as other sources), Charles M. Schulz's income during his lifetime totaled more than $1.1 billion, a true testament to the impact Schulz had on three generations of Americans who grew up with the Peanuts gang and "good Ol' Charlie Brown."
Schulz touched on religious themes in his work, including the classic television cartoon, A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965), which features the character Linus van Pelt quoting the King James Version of the Bible Luke 2:8-14 to explain "what Christmas is all about." In personal interviews Schulz mentioned that Linus represented his spiritual side.
Schulz, reared in the Lutheran faith, had been active in the Church of God (Anderson) as a young adult and then later taught Sunday school at a United Methodist Church. But, he remained a member of the Church of God (Anderson) until his death.
In an interview in the late 1980s, however, Schulz stated that his philosophical views had evolved over the years:
I do not go to church anymore… I guess you might say I've come around to secular humanism, an obligation I believe all humans have to others and the world we live in."
In the 1960s, Robert L. Short interpreted certain themes and conversations in Peanuts as being consistent with parts of Christian theology, and used them as illustrations during his lectures about the gospel, and as source material for several books, as he explained in his bestselling paperback book, The Gospel According to Peanuts.
Clayton Moore (September 14, 1914 – December 28, 1999) was an American actor best known for playing the fictional western character The Lone Ranger.
Clayton Moore's Death Clayton Moore died December 28, 1999, from a heart attack.
Clayton Moore was 85 years old at the time of his death. He is buried in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.
Clayton Moore Biography Born as Jack Carlton Moore in Chicago, Illinois, Moore was a circus acrobat as a boy, then later enjoyed a successful career as a John Robert Powers model. Moving to Hollywood in the late 1930s, he began working as a stunt man and bit player between modeling jobs. According to his autobiography, around 1940 Hollywood producer Edward Small convinced him to adopt the stage name "Clayton" Moore. He was an occasional player in B westerns and Republic Studio cliffhangers, ultimately starring in more such films than serial hero Buster Crabbe. His big break came in 1949, when George Trendle spotted him in "The Ghost of Zorro." As producer of the radio show and creator of "The Lone Ranger" character along with writer Fran Striker, Trendle was about to launch the masked man in the new medium of television. Moore was cast on sight.
Moore then faced the challenge of training his voice to sound like the radio version of The Lone Ranger, which had then been on the air since 1933, and succeeded in lowering his already distinctive baritone even further. With the first notes of Rossini's stirring "William Tell Overture" and announcer Fred Foy's, "Return with us now, to those thrilling days of yesteryear...", Moore and co-star Jay Silverheels in the role of Tonto made television history as the first western written specifically for that medium. The Lone Ranger soon became the highest-rated program to that point on the fledgling ABC network and its first true "hit", earning an Emmy nomination in 1950.
After two successful years, which presented a new episode every week, 52 weeks a year, Moore had a pay dispute and left the series. As "Clay Moore," he made a few more westerns and serials, sometimes playing the villain. The public didn't really accept the new Lone Ranger, actor John Hart, so the owners of the program relented and rehired Moore at his requested salary. He stayed with the program until it ended first-run production in 1957. He and Jay Silverheels also starred in two feature-length "Lone Ranger" motion pictures.
After completion of the second feature, "The Lone Ranger and the Lost City of Gold" in 1956, Moore embarked on what eventually became 40 years of personal appearances, TV guest spots, and classic commercials as the legendary masked man. Silverheels joined him for occasional appearances during the early 1960s, and throughout his career Moore always expressed his tremendous respect and love for Silverheels.
In 1979, the owner of the Ranger character, Jack Wrather, obtained a court order prohibiting Moore from making future appearances as The Lone Ranger. Wrather anticipated making a new film version of the story, and did not want the value of the character being undercut by Moore's appearances, nor anyone to think that the 65-year-old Moore would be playing the role in the new picture. This move proved to be a public relations disaster of the first order. Moore responded by changing his costume slightly and replacing the mask with similar-looking wraparound sunglasses, and then counter-sued Wrather. He eventually won the suit, and was able to resume his appearances in costume, which he continued to do until shortly before his death. For a time he worked in publicity tie-ins with the Texas Rangers baseball team.
Some have attributed the incredible failure of Wrather's picture, finally released in 1981 as The Legend of the Lone Ranger, to this move. In reality, it was only one of the picture's many problems (including Klinton Spilsbury's performance in the title role, reportedly so inept that his dialogue was re-recorded by James Keach). However, none of the subsequent remakes of the fictional western hero caught the public's imagination nor earned their respect as did the original.
Moore often was quoted as saying he had "fallen in love with the Lone Ranger character" and strove in his personal life to take The Lone Ranger Creed to heart. This, coupled with his public fight to retain the right to wear the mask, ultimately elevated him in the public's eyes to an American folk icon. In this regard, he was much like another cowboy star, William Boyd, who nurtured the Hopalong Cassidy character. Moore was so identified with the masked man that he is the only person on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, as of 2006, to have his character's name along with his on the star, which reads, "Clayton Moore — The Lone Ranger". He was inducted into the Stuntman's Hall of Fame in 1982 and in 1990 was inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
In keeping with the nature of the Ranger character, Moore chose to protect the Ranger's identity at all times and is perhaps the only actor whose full face is largely unknown to the public. It was never shown in the TV series, although occasionally he would don a disguise and affect an accent, revealing the upper half of his face in the process. However, there is no shortage of photos of Moore unmasked, including many in his autobiography. His many fans, however, could easily recognize him by his distinctive voice.
Curtis Mayfield (June 3, 1942 – December 26, 1999) was an American soul, R&B, and funk singer, songwriter, and record producer best known for his anthemic music with The Impressions and composing the soundtrack to the blaxploitation film Superfly. From these works and others, he was highly regarded as a pioneer of funk and of politically conscious African-American music. He was also a multi-instrumentalist who played the guitar, bass, piano, saxophone, and drums.
Later years In February, 1998, he had to have his right leg amputated due to diabetes. Mayfield was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame on March 15, 1999. Unfortunately, health reasons prevented him from attending the ceremony.
Death of Curtis Mayfield
Curtis Mayfield died on December 26, 1999 in Roswell, Georgia from Diabetes
Curtis Mayfield was 57 years old at the time of his death
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Curtils Mayfield biography & discography continues on next page
Back to the World (1973)
Got to Find a Way (1974)
Claudine (Gladys Knight and the Pips) (1974)
Sweet Exorcist (1974)
Let's Do It Again (The Staple Singers) (1975)
There's No Place Like America Today (1975)
Sparkle (Aretha Franklin) (1976)
Give, Get, Take and Have (1976)
A Piece of the Action (Mavis Staples) (1977)
Short Eyes (1977)
Never Say You Can't Survive (1977)
Do It All Night (1978)
Something to Believe In (1980)
The Right Combination (with Linda Clifford) (1980)
Love is the Place (1982)
We Come in Peace with a Message of Love (1985)
Take It to the Streets (1990)
New World Order (1997)
Curtis in Chicago (1973)
Live in Europe (1988)
People Get Ready: Live at Ronnie Scott's (1988)
Compilations The Anthology 1961-1977 (1992)
People Get Ready: The Curtis Mayfield Story (1996)
The Very Best of Curtis Mayfield (1997)
Soul Legacy (2001)
Greatest Hits (2006)
Early years and The Impressions Born in Chicago, Illinois, Mayfield attended Wells High School. He dropped out of high school early to become lead singer and songwriter for The Impressions, then went on to a successful solo career. Perhaps most notably, Mayfield was among the first of a new wave of mainstream African-American R&B performing artists and composers who injected social commentary into their work. This "message music" became extremely popular during the period of political ferment and social upheaval of the 1960s and 1970s.
Mayfield had several distinctions to his style of playing and singing, adding to the uniqueness of his music. When he taught himself how to play guitar, he tuned the guitar to the black keys of the piano, giving him an open F-sharp tuning — F#, A#, C#, F#, A#, F# — that he used throughout his career. Also, he sang most of his lines in falsetto, adding another flavor to his music.
Mayfield's career began in 1956 when he joined The Roosters with Arthur and Richard Brooks and Jerry Butler. Two years later The Roosters, now including also Sam Gooden, became The Impressions. The band had one big hit with "For Your Precious Love". After Butler left the group and was replaced with Fred Cash, Mayfield became lead singer, frequently composing for the band, as well, starting with "Gypsy Woman". Their hit "Amen," an updated version of an old gospel tune, was included in the soundtrack of the 1963 MGM film Lilies of the Field, which starred Sidney Poitier. The Impressions reached the height of their popularity in the mid to late 1960s, with a string of Mayfield compositions that included "Keep On Pushin'," "People Get Ready," "Choice of Colors," "Fool For You," "This is My Country" and "Check Out Your Mind." Mayfield had written much of the soundtrack of the civil rights movement alongside Bob Dylan and others in the early 1960s, but by the end of the decade he was a pioneering voice in the black pride movement, in the company of James Brown and Sly Stone. Mayfield's "We're a Winner" became an anthem of the black power and black pride movements when it was released in late 1967, much as his earlier "Keep on Pushing" (whose title is quoted in the lyrics of "We're a Winner") had been an anthem for Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement.
Independent from his work with The Impressions, Mayfield became a songwriting powerhouse in Chicago, writing and producing scores of hits for other artists, including:
"Mama Didn't Lie"/Jan Bradley
"We Girls"/Jan Bradley
"The Monkey Time"/Major Lance
"Um, Um, Um, Um, Um"/Major Lance
"Gypsy Woman"/Brian Hyland
"Just Be True"/(and numerous other hits) by Gene Chandler,
Walter Jackson, and The Five Stairsteps, among others. He also owned the Mayfield and Windy C labels, distributed by Cameo-Parkway, and was partners in the Curtom label (first independent, then distributed by Atlantic, then Buddah and finally Warner Bros.)
In 1970, Mayfield left The Impressions and began a solo career, founding the independent record label Curtom Records. Curtom would go on to release most of Mayfield's landmark 1970s records, as well as records by the Impressions, Leroy Hutson, The Staple Singers, and Mavis Staples, and Baby Huey and the Babysitters, a group which at the time included Chaka Khan. Many of these records were also produced by Mayfield.
The commercial and critical peak of his solo career came with his 1972 album Superfly, the soundtrack to the blaxploitation film of the same name, and one of the most influential albums in history. Unlike the soundtracks to other blaxploitation films (most notably Isaac Hayes' score for Shaft), which glorified the excesses of the characters, Mayfield's lyrics consisted of hard-hitting commentary on the state of affairs in black, urban ghettos at the time, as well as direct criticisms of several characters in the film. Bob Donat wrote in Rolling Stone Magazine in 1972 that while the film's message "was diluted by schizoid cross-purposes" because it "glamorizes machismo-cocaine consciousness... the anti-drug message on [Mayfield's soundtrack] is far stronger and more definite than in the film." Along with Marvin Gaye's What's Going On and Stevie Wonder's Innervisions, this album ushered in a new socially conscious, funky style of popular soul music. He was dubbed 'The Gentle Genius' to reflect his outstanding and innovative musical output with the constant presence of his soft yet insistent vocals.
Superfly's success resulted in Mayfield being tapped for additional soundtracks, some of which he wrote and produced while having others perform the vocals. Gladys Knight & the Pips recorded Mayfield's soundtrack for Claudine in 1974, while Aretha Franklin recorded the soundtrack for Sparkle in 1976. Mayfield worked with Mavis Staples on the 1977 soundtrack for the film A Piece of the Action. He was in danger of overreaching himself being writer, producer, performer, arranger and businessman but seemed to cope and still produce a remarkable output.
One of Mayfield's most successful funk-disco meldings was the 1977 hit "Do Do Wap is Strong in Here" from his soundtrack to the Robert M. Young film of Miguel Piñero's play Short Eyes.
Later years Mayfield was active throughout the 1970s and 1980s, though he had a somewhat lower public profile. On August 13, 1990, Mayfield was paralyzed from the neck down after stage lighting equipment fell on him at an outdoor concert at Wingate Field in Flatbush, Brooklyn, New York. This tragedy set him back, but Mayfield forged ahead. He was unable to play guitar, but he wrote, sang and directed the recording of his last album, New World Order. Mayfield's vocals were painstakingly recorded, usually line-by-line whilst lying on his back.
Mayfield received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1995.
In February, 1998, he had to have his right leg amputated due to diabetes. Mayfield was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame on March 15, 1999. Unfortunately, health reasons prevented him from attending the ceremony, which included fellow inductees Paul McCartney, Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, Dusty Springfield, George Martin, and 1970s Curtom signee and labelmate The Staples Singers. Mayfield died on December 26, 1999 in Roswell, Georgia surrounded by his family. His last work came to be the song "Astounded", with the group Bran Van 3000, recorded just before his death and released in 2000. As a member of The Impressions, Mayfield was posthumously inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2003.
Mayfield is remembered for his introduction of social consciousness into R&B and for pioneering the funk style in the 1970s. Many of his recordings with the Impressions became anthems of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, and his most famous album, Superfly, is regarded as an all-time great that influenced many and truly invented a new style of modern black music (#69 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 greatest albums). His distinctive, hard guitar riffs influenced the development of funk, and was highly influential on a young Jimi Hendrix who cited Mayfield as his biggest influence. He is also regarded as influencing other landmark albums, like Herbie Hancock's Head Hunters. One magazine notes, "eulogies...have treated him...as a sort of secular saint--rather like an American Bob Marley". That noted, he is not as well-known as contemporaries like Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, or James Brown, perhaps because of their more consistent streams of hits or more mainstream style of music. Nevertheless, he is still highly regarded for his numerous innovations in the 1960s and 1970s and for his unique style of music, perhaps best described as "black psychedelia...remarkable for the scope of its social awareness". In 2004, Rolling Stone Magazine ranked Mayfield #99 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time
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