Gem of the Week: “Move On Up”-Curtis Mayfield

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Song: “Move On Up”

Artist: Curtis Mayfield

Album: Curtis (1970)

The legacy of Curtis Mayfield is one stamped with eternal coolness. In addition to lead-producing blaxploitation film scores, he mixed his own records, played the guitar, piano, and sang with a kind of velvety richness paralleled by few other than Marvin Gaye or Al Green.  His composition and style, and unfaltering, rhythmic technique were primarily essential for the soul genre’s development, yet somehow exhaled funk, jazz, and pop all at the same time.

His 1970 breakout studio LP, a rogue work of music for such an overwhelmingly hippie-rock era, is an R&B staple: a funky, soulful source of energy crafted with the legendary Superfly soul singer/producer’s freshest sound.

There’s a cool, soul-reviving quality to “Move On Up”—a hard-funk groove that shakes you and wakes you to an unexplained, spiritual sunshine–led by Mayfield’s fuzzy falsetto and some mighty optimistic trumpet in every refrain. It’s designed for a dance in the streets, or a milder head-bob under headphones. Either way, it motivates movement through its sunny mind-release.

The track might also win the award for tightest, most succinct drum riff of the decade; a bongo-led brigade of barreling snares, cymbals, and other excessive percussion. In the midst of all the funky radiance, Mayfield takes a moment to tell us what’s up, with an embracing hook: (“So hush now child and don’t you cry, your folks might understand you by and by/ Move on up and keep on wishing, remember your dream is your only scheme, so keep on pushing…).

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