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Seventy-Fifth Birthday Tribute to Curtis Mayfield

Aaron Cohen, music critic, humanities professor at Wright College, City Colleges of Chicago, and author of the forthcoming Move On Up: Chicago Soul Music and Black Cultural Power. On December 17, 2017, the National Gallery of Art held a 75th birthday tribute to Curtis Mayfield (1942–1999), American singer, writer, producer, and label owner. This program was proposed and made possible by Darryl Atwell. Remarks were presented by Aaron Cohen on the social, cultural, and political changes that shaped soul music in Chicago during the 1960s and 1970s and how musicians themselves were often agents of those very changes. As a singer, songwriter, producer, guitarist, and entrepreneur, Curtis Mayfield stood at the center of this movement. Cohen read excerpts from his forthcoming book Move On Up that describe Mayfield's working methods and his influence. Afterward, DJ Jahsonic presented music related to Mayfield and his legacy. A film screening followed of Urban Soul by Ghanaian British filmmaker John Akomfrah. An example of Akomfrah’s work with Smoking Dogs Films made for broadcast, Urban Soul uses a pop-culture subject—the phenomenon of R&B—as criteria to investigate deeper themes of corporate corruption and greed.