“Freddie’s Dead” by Curtis Mayfield
What the hell is this? Super Fly was a fairly straightforward action movie, riding the wave of Blaxploitation films of the early ’70s. It’s about a drug dealer and all-around bad-ass named Priest, who’s got a plan to stick it to The Man. It’s an alright movie, for what it’s worth; not a work of art like Across 110th Street, not as iconic as Shaft, not as goofy as Dolemite, and unfortunately it doesn’t star Pam Grier, but it’s alright.
But Curtis Mayfield, hired to record the soundtrack, saw the film as a launching-pad for a socially-aware concept album, something like Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On. Just take this song, “Freddie’s Dead.” In the film the instrumental track plays without the vocals, presumably because Mayfield’s lyrics would have thrown a monkey-wrench into Super Fly. In the film, nobody particularly cares that Freddie is dead, and Priest, too, is “pushin’ dope for The Man!” as Mayfield so indignantly shouts. He made a record that was too smart for this movie.
And it payed off. Curtis Mayfield’s Super Fly soundtrack is one of the only soundtracks ever to out-gross the movie itself.