Home Celebrity “Sparkle” and “Superfly” Composer Curtis Mayfield Will Get All Star Lincoln Center...

“Sparkle” — the movie billed as Whitney Houston’s last recording, last appearance, etc– came from the music of Curtis Mayfield. The 1976 film featured five Mayfield songs. One of them became a huge hit for Aretha Franklin–“Giving Him Something He Can Feel.” Twenty years later, it was a hit again for En Vogue. Now “Sparkle” is back, opening August 17th, from Tri-Star/Sony. Jordin Sparks and Houston are the stars, with Derek Luke. On Monday the Hollywood Reporter screwed up the announcement of the soundtrack. They said, “seven songs by Jordin Sparks.” She didn’t write them, my friends. She’s a very good singer, but she didn’t write them.

Four of the songs in the new movie come from the old movie–they were written by Curtis Mayfield, who died in 1999 at the age of 57. He’d been paralyzed for years after a terrible accident: a lighting rig fell on him during an outdoor show in Brooklyn. Sometimes people forget, when an artist is dead, that they were actual people, and left behind families. Curtis Mayfield had a wonderful wife, Altheida, and a brood of lovely kids.

I’m told they haven’t heard a word from Tri Star about the “Sparkle” remake. So I will do the introductions. The Mayfields live in Atlanta. The movie premiere is August 16th in Los Angeles. It’s time for someone from the studio to pick up the phone and make “Sparkle” a good experience for the family of the man who wrote those memorable songs. No one seems to know if there’s a credit in the film that says “Original songs by Curtis Mayfield.” There should be one.

On a similar note, Mayfield wrote all the songs that became another movie: “Superfly.” The title song, “Freddie’s Dead,” and “Pusherman” were big hits on the radio. Now a Broadway show is allegedly coming together based on the movie, which was directed by Gordon Parks. The Mayfields are still waiting for a call from former Sony music Tommy Mottola– listed as a producer–or the Dodger Group, which also produced “Jersey Boys.” How completely odd. If you, dear reader, were behind “Sparkle” or “Superfly,” wouldn’t you pick up the phone and call the composer’s widow? Hmmmm…

Meantime, some people are respecting Curtis Mayfield, who also created The Impressions, and wrote dozens of hits including “People Get Ready,” “Gypsy Woman,” “Monkey Time,” “Um Um Um Um Um,” “He Don’t Love You (Like I Love You),” “Move on Up” and “It’s All Right (to Have a Good Time).”

Lincoln Center is putting together a one night only superstar 70th birthday tribute to Curtis on July 20th. (That’s right–Curtis Mayfield would now be the age of contemporary classic songwriters Paul McCartney and Carole King.)

It’s going to be amazing. Among the performers: Sinéad O’Connor, The Roots, Meshell Ndegeocello, William Bell,  The Impressions, Mavis Staples, and a 14-piece house band led by music director Binky Griptite of the Dap-Kings. The concert takes place at Avery Fisher Hall. The Mayfields will be sitting right up front. Tickets start at $35.00. For more information about the Curtis Mayfield 70th Birthday Tribute, call 212-721-6500 or visit the Avery Fisher Hall box office or http://lincolncenterfestival.org/index.php/2012-curtis-mayfield

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5 replies to this post
  1. I listen to the director commentary and they had to get authorization to do this soundtrack. I’m sure Curtis Mayfield estate will be compensated. It’s a blessing to see his music come back in the 21st century.

  2. Thank you for the article. People soon forget to pay their regards to the person that gave them the songs, that gave them the opportunity to sing. I remember the impact that both of those movies had on me as a child growing up with such a famous uncle and I am just glad that someone other then our family remembers and pays homage to his wonderful legacy. Thank you again,

    LV Mayfield

  3. I always thought copyrights and trademarks are suppose to protect the rights of the writers and composers. Mr Mayfield is no longer here, so it seems that any proceeds should go to his estate for his family. I agree with Sally, the family attorneys should be contacting those involved in these ventures as a plan b, since these entities did not contact the family in the first place. Sam Moore who is still alive, thank god seem to be having a problem with those who appear to be taking his life story for their own profits and not consulting him. Curtis Mayfield family deserves their due, especially since newer artist are breathing new life into his work, as the creator his heir should be compensated.

  4. I haven’t seen the credits for the Sparkle CD, but better believe Curtis gets credit, because the record company had to get clearance to use the songs. And it’s Whitney’s movie and she would most certainly give Curtis credit. I believe R. Kelly also wrote some additional songs….so lighten up and let’s just see what happens.
    As for calling the family — shouldn’t the family have an attorney or representative that would CALL the movie company?

  5. Roger, thank you for putting credit where credit is definitely due. For too long Curtis Mayfield’s miusical genius has been sadly overlooked. By the way, we shouldn’t forget along with ‘Sparkle’ and ‘Superfly’ Mayfield also wrote and produced the fabulous 1974 Gladys Knight & The Pips sung soundtrack to the Diahann Carroll movie, ‘Claudine’.

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