If Curtis Mayfield is a household name, it's due to the enormous popularity of the music he composed and performed for the soundtrack of the film Superfly in 1972. Most people are unaware that the album is the tip of the iceberg for Mayfield--and even fewer are aware that Mayfield wrote/produced/arranged other successful movie scores. Two years later, Mayfield lent his gifts to the film Claudine, this time using Gladys Knight and the Pips to provide the musical backdrop for a love story set in Chicago's housing projects. In '75, Mayfield penned the hit "Let's Do It Again" for the film of the same name, this time using the Staple Singers to great success. In '77, he performed and had a brief cameo in the film Short Eyes.
Mayfield never repeated the commercial success of Superfly; but arguably, the soundtrack he composed for the 1976 film Sparkle is every bit as musically satisfying. The film (scripted by Joel Schumacher, who has gone on to abysmal directive depths with Batman Returns) concerns a trio of women trying to hit it big in the music world. Its premise predated the suspiciously similar Broadway hit Dreamgirls--but the score has a lot going for it, including the stratospheric stylings of Aretha Franklin. The Mayfield touch is most noticeable in the title track, and in the songs "Look Into Your Heart" and "Jump"; but on the whole, this collaboration between two soul titans is as gratifying as one could ever hope for.