Curtis Mayfield has adorned the walls of many college dorm rooms, record shops and hipster apartments thanks to his work on the soundtrack to the 1972 blaxploitation film Super Fly. Mayfield’s name and photo appear on the iconic poster just underneath the image of the Youngblood Priest – the dope dealer looking to go straight.
On Christmas Day, Mayfield’s music was heard in a different sort of film. A new cover of the 1963 hit “It’s All Right,” which Mayfield recorded with his group The Impressions, played during the closing credits of the Disney/Pixar film Soul. The film tells the story of Joe Gardner, a middle school band teacher who embarks on a journey through the afterlife after scoring his dream job as a jazz musician. The song was covered by Jon Batiste who is best known as the band leader for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.
The original track is nothing short of a pop masterpiece. Written by Mayfield, it blends elements of gospel, doo-wop and early soul to create a finger snapping mini pop symphony. It’s a dance tune, a love song and an existential ramble. It was likely chosen for the film because the words “You got soul” repeat throughout the song.
Any cover of such a great track is a difficult endeavor. Batiste mixes up the arrangement, using a light bit of piano jazz to start. He then delivers the lyrics in a high-pitched voice, paying clear homage to Mayfield. A second version of the song was released as a single, featuring Batiste singing in tandem with British soul singer Celeste. She sings her half of the vocals using a slightly deeper, more drawly voice.
Both versions are fresh and fun reinterpretations of a classic, enough to introduce the song to a new generation of kids.
Listen to them both here.
Click here to listen to more covers by Jon Batiste