Society of Midland Authors Literary Award Winner
Curtis Mayfield was one of the seminal vocalists and most talented guitarists of his era. But perhaps more important is his role as a social critic, and the vital influence his music had on the civil rights movement. "People Get Ready" is the black anthem of the 1960s, and on his soundtrack to the 1972 movie Super Fly, rather than glorifying the blaxploitation imagery of the film, Mayfield wrote and sang one of the most incisive audio portraits of black America on record.
In Traveling Soul, Todd Mayfield tells his famously private father’s story in riveting detail. Born into dire poverty, raised in the slums of Chicago, Curtis became a musical prodigy, not only singing like a dream but also growing into a brilliant songwriter. In the 1960s he became a pioneer, opening his own label and production company and working with many other top artists, including the Staple Singers. Curtis’s life was famously cut short by an accident that left him paralyzed, but in his declining health he received the long-awaited recognition of the music industry.
Passionate, illuminating, vivid, and absorbing, Traveling Soul will doubtlessly take its place among the classics of music biography.
Todd Mayfield is Curtis Mayfield’s second-oldest son. He is an entrepreneur and former financial services executive in Chicago, and promotes his father’s music and legacy. Travis Atria has written extensively on music and culture for Paste, Wax Poetics, Guitarist, the Believer, and other publications. His music has been featured on MTV, GQ.com, and an independent film that debuted at SXSW. He lives in Gainesville, Florida.
"Curtis Mayfield was a national treasure and now, finally, we have his story in all of its majesty and sorrow. Music biographies are rarely described as 'thrilling,' but this one is. Here's the story of an influential and unappreciated artist during the country's long season of turmoil. What a magnificent musical and cultural legacy." —William McKeen, author of Outlaw Journalist and Mile Marker Zero
"Traveling Soul is a gift to everyone who's ever taken strength from 'People Get Ready,' 'Superfly,' 'Keep On Pushing,' or 'We're a Winner.' Todd Mayfield gives us a loving, honest vision of a Curtis Mayfield that's never been seen outside his inner circle. When the history of American soul music is written in a hundred years, Curtis Mayfield's name will be in the first rank, alongside Marvin Gaye, James Brown, Al Green, Aretha Franklin, and Stevie Wonder." —Craig Werner, author of Higher Ground and A Change Is Gonna Come
"Finally a book that gets to the heart and soul of one of the great geniuses of American music." —David Ritz, author of Divided Soul: The Life of Marvin Gaye
“[Traveling Soul will] make readers want to seek out the singer and songwriter, if they haven't already fired up their old LPs.” —Kirkus Reviews
“This book is super fly; people get ready.” —Library Journal
“Traveling Soul provides a long overdue corrective, not only in returning Curtis’s legacy into a proper light but also by offering revealing, intimate evaluation of him as a musical leader, business partner, friend, husband, and father.” —Pitchfork.com
“This is an affectionate portrait and a fascinating, balanced account of a tormented soul.” —Publishers Weekly
"[A] detailed, forthright portrayal of a stalwart cornerstone of the world of blues, soul, and hip-hop." —Booklist