Curtis Mayfield – “(Don’t Worry) If There’s Hell Below…”

“…We’re All Going to Go.”

I’m a huge fan of Curtis Mayfield. The Chicago-born R&B and funk pioneer looms large in my personal pantheon of godlike musicians. His work, particularly his earlier albums shortly after going solo from the R&B and doo-wop outfit the Impressions, resonate with me. The music hits hard, weaving tales of social ills and harsh realities for Black people in America in the early 1970s, set to sounds of hard and furious music, full of emotion and power, moving headlong into an unknown new era after a tumultuous decade of upheaval and tragedy.

While my intro to the man’s music was the superlative soundtrack to the Blaxploitation flick, Super Fly, for tonight’s post I want to go back to his formal solo debut, 1970’s Curtis,  a classic record which contains one of Curtis’s greatest-known tracks, “Move On Up,” but this listen, fittingly the album’s opener, is a track I felt compelled to post.

“(Don’t Worry) If There’s Hell Below, We’re All Going to Go.” A hell of a title. Nihilistic much? The track perfectly nails the feelings of confusion and uncertainty of the era, with African Americans  having won their civil rights, but with the ’70s dawning and most Black leaders either dead or imprisoned, and the world getting much colder…what was in store? Curtis remains skeptical, saying that no matter what happens, and no matter how much help or changed is promised…nothing will change. And everyone is going down with the ship. To be honest, with all the stuff going on in America in 2015, I’m feeling just as skeptical right now.

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