EXCLUSIVE: Recording artist and newly minted American Idol judge Lionel Richie has been granted the rights to produce a feature based on the life of legendary songwriter and musician Curtis Mayfield. Richie, who acquired the rights from the Curtis Mayfield Estate, is mounting the project via his RichLion Productions.
“It’s an honor for me to bring the life of one of my idols and friend to the screen,” the former Commordores frontman said. “I’m so grateful to be working closely with Altheida Mayfield, Cheaa Mayfield and the Curtis Mayfield Estate and couldn’t be happier to be moving forward on this amazing project about a one-of-a-kind music genius.”
“It’s time to celebrate and re-evaluate Curtis’ legacy,” added Altheida Mayfield, the singer’s widow. “For years, too many others have tried to claim what he alone did. He was a genius, always stood on his own.”
Born in Chicago in 1942, Mayfield started writing songs at age 11 before joining Jerry Butler in the Impressions at age 14. Mayfield has written more than 1,900 songs including the Impressions’ hits “People Get Ready” and “Keep on Pushin’” reflecting his awareness of political and social concerns among black people. His group had a pair of top 10 pop hits — “It’s All Right” and cover “Amen” — and six No. 1s on the Billboard R&B Singles chart. In addition, he scored various films such as the Gordon Parks, Jr.-directed blaxploitation drama Superfly, and Warner Bros’ 1976 film Sparkle. He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2002; Richie received a special award from that group last year.
In 1990, Curtis Mayfield was paralyzed from the neck down after stage lighting equipment fell on him during an outdoor concert in New York. Although he was unable to play instruments after the accident, Curtis continued to sing, compose music and record. After an acclaimed four-decade career, Mayfield died in 1999 at 57.