by Shyam Allard
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Local popular musician Travis Atria has co-authored the first bona fide biography of music pioneer Curtis Mayfield.
Atria, University of Florida graduate and front man of Gainesville’s Morningbell, said he started working on the book in 2009, after looking for a biography on Mayfield, and finding pretty much nothing.
“I couldn’t believe an artist of his importance had never had a book written about him,” Atria said. “So I figured, ‘Well, I want to write books, that’s what I want to do with my life, so maybe I’ll write this one.’”
But the project proved to be a challenging task. Atria said that Mayfield had been a very private man who had basically three families with three different women, and they didn’t all get along.
“I decided early on that if I couldn’t contact the family and get some inside information on what he was really like, I didn’t want to write the book,” Atria said.
After a long time, Atria finally got in touch with Todd Mayfield, Curtis’ son, who agreed to co-author the biography with Atria.
“We had a bunch of meetings in Chicago,” Atria said. “We kind of discussed what we both had in mind for the book, and I think our vision lined up pretty closely.”
Mayfield, who wrote the soundtrack for the blaxploitation film “Super Fly,” is said by some to have also written half the soundtrack to the Civil Rights Movement with songs like “People Get Ready” and “Keep On Pushing.”
Glenn Richards, former history of rock ‘n’ roll” professor at UF, believes Atria’s book is important in highlighting Mayfield’s legacy.
“He’s known and he’s respected,” Richards said. “But I hope this maybe cements his place in the history of R&B music, and brings a new audience, a new generation, into his music and his message.”
Atria believes this message is still relevant today.
“I think he’s more important now than he ever has been,” Atria said. “Everything that he talks about in his songs is still happening today, sadly.”
The biography, which is titled “Traveling Soul: The Life of Curtis Mayfield,” will be released Oct. 1, and an event will be held for the book at the Gainesville Hippodrome State Theatre on Oct. 11.
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