It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of the Civil Rights Movement, it was the age of funkiness, it was… the ’60s and ’70s.
And no one made that transition look (or sound) better than Curtis Mayfield. He lent a soundtrack to Martin Luther King Jr.’s message in the ’60s, and he lent a soundtrack to the blaxploitation film Super Fly in the ’70s, injecting some much-needed social consciousness into a wayward genre while also shaping a sound still found in rhythm and blues today. (A young Kanye West built his early career on sampling his Chicagoan forefather.) And all along the way, Curtis managed to match his musical creativity with equal measures of sartorial flamboyance—from gray flannel suits to bow ties to funkadelic leisurewear.