Keep on Pushing

Curtis Mayfield, 1964

What are some of the elements of the gospel style in this song? How do these stylistic elements connect the song to the African American experience, even though there is no explicit reference to race in the song's lyrics?

This politically charged song managed to achieve wide popularity in a divisive era. What issues were dividing Americans in the 1960s?

Do you think that the decision not to explicitly refer to the Civil Rights Movement in the song lessened or expanded its impact? Why?

Based on your reading of the lyrics, how do you think "Keep On Pushing" took stances on issues that divided Americans while still managing to appeal to so many listeners? Is the message of the song explicitly divisive?

Compare and contrast the song with Nina Simone's "Mississippi Goddam," which was released in the same year. How are the songs' messages similar? How are they different?

"Keep on Pushing" performed by The Impressions. Available on Itunes, Spotify, and YouTube.


For more information on Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions, visit his offical website.

Rights have not been secured to reprint the words for this song. For the lyrics please consult this online source:

Keep on pushing 45 rpm record
"Keep On Pushing" 45 rpm album.

The song "Keep on Pushing" was released by the Impressions in 1964 and became a part of what is often called the "soundtrack to the Civil Rights Move-ment." The Impressions were a Chicago-based soul, gospel, and R&B group whose leader and primary songwriter was Curtis Mayfield (1942–99). Mayfield became well-known for his rhythmic grooves, funky bass lines, and gospel-tinged vocal arrangements. The gospel influence of the lyrics and harmonies spoke to the African American experience at the time, and the universality of the lyrics also provide a timelessness to the song.

Because the lyrics of many of Mayfield's songs (especially in his early career) were subtle and did not mention the Civil Rights Movement directly, they avoided controversy and were widely played on the radio, where they reached a broad audience. The lyrics of "Keep on Pushing" focus on perseverance ("keep on pushing, I can't stop now"), strength ("'cause I've got my strength and it don't make sense not to keep on pushing"), and pride ("a great big stone wall stands there ahead of me, but I've got my pride and I'll move aside and keep on pushing").

This song and others, such as the Impressions' "People Get Ready" (1965), became a comfort for people after the assassinations of John F. Kennedy in 1963 and Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968. "Keep on Pushing" also spread outside the United States to offer encouragement to peoples struggling in areas such as Jamaica.

In 1970, Mayfield left the Impressions to embark on a solo career. He continued to write socially conscious songs and wrote the highly regarded soundtrack to the 1972 film Superfly.



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