David Corio

Curtis Mayfield

Backstage at The Barn, Ilford, Essex
(June 18, 1983)

When ‘The Face’ rang me and asked if I was interested in photographing Curtis Mayfield for them I jumped at the chance. The soul legend had been one of my musical heroes for many years and he was doing a warm up show in a small club in Essex before embarking on a European tour. The show hadn’t been properly promoted so when I arrived there were about 40 people in the audience. Nonetheless Curtis and his band played a magnificent set featuring hits from his solo career and earlier songs from his days with The Impressions in the 1960s. His falsetto vocals sounded as sweet as when the songs had been recorded and his unusual F# guitar tunings added to his individual sound.

I was nervous heading backstage after the show but on entering the dressing room and being introduced to him Curtis came up and gave me a big hug as if we were old friends. He was a quietly spoken and humble man. When asked about a rumour that he had participated in the studio with Marvin Gaye during the recording of the seminal ‘What’s Going On’, he smiled sheepishly and reluctantly admitted he had been there to offer advice, but insisted on his name not appearing on any credits.

I was lucky enough to meet and photograph Curtis again five years later and he remembered me and chatted as if we were good mates. Curtis Mayfield was a wonderful caring person and a true musical genius. The accident in Brooklyn when lighting fell on him whilst onstage which was to paralyse him and ultimately lead to his untimely death was a complete tragedy.

Curtis Mayfield