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Mahalia Jackson

Mahalia Jackson

Mahalia Jackson (/m?'he?lj?/ m?-HAYL-y?; October 26, 1911 – January 27, 1972) was an American gospel singer. Possessing a powerful contralto voice, she was referred to as "The Queen of Gospel". Jackson became one of the most influential gospel singers in the world and was heralded internationally as a singer and civil rights activist. She was described by entertainer Harry Belafonte as "the single most powerful black woman in the United States". She recorded about 30 albums (mostly for Columbia Records) during her career, and her 45 rpm records included a dozen "golds"—million-sellers."I sing God's music because it makes me feel free," Jackson once said about her choice of gospel, adding, "It gives me hope. With the blues, when you finish, you still have the blues."1920s–1940sIn 1927, at the age of sixteen, Jackson moved from the south to Chicago, Illinois, in the midst of the Great Migration. After her first Sunday church service, where she had given an impromptu performance of her favorite song, "Hand Me Down My Silver Trumpet, Gabriel", she was invited to join the Greater Salem Baptist Church Choir. She began touring the city's churches and surrounding areas with the Johnson Gospel Singers, one of the earliest professional gospel groups. In 1929, Jackson met the composer Thomas A. Dorsey, known as the Father of Gospel Music. He gave her musical advice, and in the mid-1930s they began a 14-year association of touring, with Jackson singing Dorsey's songs in church programs and at conventions. His "Take My Hand, Precious Lord" became her signature song.In 1936, Jackson married Isaac Lanes Grey Hockenhull ("Ike"), a graduate of Fisk University and Tuskegee Institute who was 10 years her senior. She refused to sing secular music, a pledge she would keep throughout her professional life. She was frequently offered money to do so and she divorced Isaac in 1941 because of his unrelenting pressure on her to sing secular music and his addiction to gambling on racehorses.In 1931, Jackson recorded "You Better Run, Run, Run". Not much is known about this recording and no publicly known copies exist. Biographer Laurraine Goreau cites that it was also around this time she added 'i' to her name, changing it from Mahala to Mahalia, pronounced /m?'he?li?/. At age 26, Mahalia's second set of records was recorded on May 21, 1937, under the Decca Coral label, accompanied by Estelle Allen (piano), in order: "God's Gonna Separate The Wheat From The Tares", "My Lord", "Keep Me Everyday" and "God Shall Wipe All Tears Away". Financially, these were not successful, and Decca let her go.In 1947, she signed up with the Apollo label, and in 1948, recorded the William Herbert Brewster song "Move On Up a Little Higher", a recording so popular stores could not stock enough copies to meet demand, selling an astonishing eight million copies. (The song was later honored with the Grammy Hall of Fame Award in 1998.) The success of this record rocketed Jackson to fame in the U.S., and soon after, in Europe. During this time she toured as a concert artist, appearing more frequently in concert halls and less often in churches. As a consequence of this change in her venues, her arrangements expanded from piano and organ to orchestral accompaniments.Other recordings received wide praise, including "Let the Power of the Holy Ghost Fall on Me" (1949), which won the French Academy's Grand Prix du Disque; and "Silent Night, Holy Night", which became one of the best-selling singles in the history of Norway. When Jackson sang "Silent Night" on Denmark's national radio, more than twenty thousand requests for copies poured in. Other recordings on the Apollo label included "He Knows My Heart" (1946), "Amazing Grace" (1947), "Tired" (1947), "I Can Put My Trust in Jesus" (1949), "Walk with Me" (1949), "Let the Power of the Holy Ghost Fall on Me" (1949), "Go Tell It on the Mountain" (1950), "The Lord's Prayer" (1950), "How I Got Over" (1951), "His Eye Is on the Sparrow" (1951), "I Believe" (1953), "Didn't It Rain" (1953), "Hands of God" (1953) and "Nobody Knows" (1954).Grammy Hall of FameMahalia Jackson was posthumously inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, a special Grammy award established in 1973 to honor artists whose recordings are at least twenty-five years old and have "qualitative or historical significance".Well-known songs"What Child Is This""How I Got Over""Trouble of the World""Silent Night""Go Tell It on the Mountain""Amazing Grace", (Apollo 194, 1947)"Move On Up A Little Higher", (Apollo 164, 1947)"Take My Hand, Precious Lord" (performed this song at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s funeral)"Remember Me"Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho""Holding My Saviour's Hands""Roll, Jordan, Roll""The Upper Room""We Shall Overcome""I'm on My Way to Canaan""You'll Never Walk Alone""His Eye is on the Sparrow""What a Friend We Have in Jesus""Didn't it Rain""Wait Till My Change Comes", (Apollo 110, 1946)"He Knows My Heart", (Apollo 145, 1946)"Come on Children, Let's Sing"In popular cultureShe appears in the 1960 film, Jazz on a Summer's Day – an artistic documentary filmed at the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival. She sings three gospel numbers at the end of the film, including "The Lord's Prayer".In the 1958 movie St. Louis Blues, she played the character Bessie May and sang in the church choir.In the movie Jungle Fever, the character played by Ossie Davis tries to distract himself from his son Gator's (Samuel L. Jackson) crack cocaine addiction by listening to Mahalia Jackson albums by the hour.In the 1959 film Imitation of Life, Mahalia Jackson portrays the choir soloist, singing "Trouble of the World" at Annie's funeral. She has no speaking lines, but her singing performance highlights the climactic scene.In the 1964 Film The Best Man, Mahalia plays herself, singing at a Democratic Covention in a two-minute clip.Duke Ellington, with whom she occasionally recorded, most notably on the studio version of Black, Brown and Beige, paid tribute to her on his New Orleans Suite album with the song "Portrait of Mahalia Jackson".In the 1970 documentary movie Elvis: That's the Way It Is, Elvis Presley jokes with his audience that, "I'm gonna bring in the Supremes tomorrow night, you know. And Mahalia Jackson singing lead with them."Alan Parker's 1988 film Mississippi Burning starts with Mahalia's famous recording of Take My Hand, Precious Lord over the opening credits, over a poignant scene of a pair of segregated water fountains.Columbia Records DiscographyWorld's Greatest Gospel SingerSweet Little Jesus BoyBless This HouseYou'll Never Walk AloneLive at Newport 1958Great Gettin' Up MorningCome On Children, Let's SingThe Power and the GloryI BelieveEverytime I Feel the SpiritRecorded Live in Europe During Her Latest Concert TourGreat Songs of Love and FaithMake a Joyful Noise Unto the LordSilent NightMahalia Jackson's Greatest HitsLet's Pray TogetherMahaliaGarden of PrayerMy FaithMahalia Jackson in Concert Easter Sunday, 1967A Mighty FortressChristmas With MahaliaMahalia Sings the Gospel Right Out of the ChurchWhat the World Needs NowCompilationsThe Best of Mahalia Jackson Hymns, Spirituals & Songs of Inspiration (1976)


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