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Soul Singer Mayfield Paralyzed in Stage Mishap

August 14, 1990|CHUCK PHILIPS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Soul singer Curtis Mayfield is paralyzed from the neck down and remains in serious condition after being hit by a lighting scaffold blown down by a strong gust of wind during an outdoor concert Monday night in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Mayfield, composer of such classic R&B tunes as "People Get Ready" and "Superfly," was about to begin performing at Windgate Field when a gust of wind dislodged an unstable scaffold of overhead stage lights and sent the tower crashing down on him. The scaffold struck Mayfield from behind and broke his neck.

The 48-year-old veteran soul artist was listed in serious but stable condition today at Kings County Hospital, suffering from head and neck injuries.

Todd Mayfield, the singer's son, attributed the accident to "gross negligence" on the part of the concert promoters and said the family was in shock.

"It's so tragic. I still can't believe this has happened," he told The Times in a telephone interview from the soul singer's Atlanta home. "We are at a loss for words."

"Right now," Todd Mayfield said of his father, "he is paralyzed from the neck down, but we're hoping that when the swelling goes down he'll be able to regain some movement in his body."

Marty Markowitz, a state senator who organized the concert, told United Press International: "As Mayfield was ready to come on stage, an overwhelming wind hit us and blew the speakers off the stage and the lighting trusses down. Some of it hit Mr. Mayfield. Mr. Mayfield looked pretty bad. We hope he will be fine. This was supposed to have been a comeback concert for him."

Seven others were also injured in the accident.

Mayfield, born in Chicago, rose to prominence as the guitarist, songwriter and singer for the Impressions. His trademark falsetto singing and rhythm guitar licks helped define the classic R&B sound of the '60s. After his departure from the group in 1970, Mayfield wrote the music for the film "Superfly." His solo release "Take It to the Streets" charted 14 weeks on Billboard's Top Black Album list earlier this year.

The Impressions are one of 15 veteran acts nominated to appear on the ballot of this year's inductees to the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame.

Mayfield, who appeared at two outdoor concerts last weekend in Long Beach, recently completed recording "The Return of Superfly," a sequel to his 1971 smash album. The new album is due out next week.

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