Deep Dive: Curtis Mayfield – SHORT EYES: ORIGINAL MOTION PICTURE SOUNDTRACK
19 years ago today, the world lost one of the great R&B singers and songwriters: Curtis Mayfield, the man responsible for penning such classic tunes as “Gypsy Woman,” “It’s All Right,” “Keep On Pushin’” and “People Get Ready” for The Impressions, not to mention a plethora of brilliant tunes for himself as a solo artist. To celebrate his life and career, however, we’re opting to spotlight an effort which you may not have heard: his soundtrack to the 1977 film Short Eyes.
Directed by Robert M. Young, Short Eyes is a film which even now sounds staggeringly harsh when you read the description: Bruce Davison stars as Clark Davis, a middle-class white man in his twenties who goes to a predominantly black and Puerto Rican prison after being accused of raping a young girl. Is he innocent? Well, he says he doesn’t remember doing it, but he does admit to Juan, one of his fellow inmates (and the only one who doesn’t loathe Clark on sight because of the accusations against him), that he’s molested other children in the past. Will Juan tell the authorities what Clark has told him? Or will it even matter, given that the other inmates would just as soon kill him?
See what we mean? It’s pretty rough stuff. So rough, in fact, that the Wu-Tang Clan actually sampled dialogue from the film for their 2000 song “Let My Niggas Live.”
Mayfield’s soundtrack for SHORT EYES may not be up to the standards of his iconic score for SUPERFLY, but the film does feature some truly funky material. Plus, we can’t help but mention that he also makes an appearance in the film, performing the opening number from the soundtrack: “Do Do Wap is Strong in Here.”
The song climbed to #29 on the Billboard R&B Singles chart, but it was the only single released from the soundtrack, which itself stalled at #59 on the R&B Albums chart, a full 17 places below the high of his previous studio album, NEVER SAY YOU CAN’T SURVIVE.
Give SHORT EYES a listen. If you like Mayfield’s work, there’s every reason to think that you’ll dig it.
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