A woman who's name is synonymous with Gospel music.
"I sing God's music because it makes me feel free. It gives me hope. With the blues, when you finish, you still have the blues."– Mahalia Jackson
Born 107 years ago in New Orleans, LA, the woman whose name would become so synonymous with Gospel music came from very humble beginnings. Raised in a household of thirteen (sometimes more) family members in a three room dwelling, she loved to sing at an early age, and singing at church was where she was happiest. She, along with many of her other family members, were uneducated in public schools of any kind, and pretty much everyone had to work just to help pay the bills. Even though she had a bowed-leg disorder, Jackson still cleaned houses and performed dance routines for her white employers.
In 1927, during the Great Migration to northern industrial cities by Southern Blacks, the family ended up in Chicago. At the age of 16, she was “discovered” by a local church leader and ended up touring with Thomas A Dorsey, becoming part of one of the first nationally touring Gospel groups in the country. In 1947, at the age of 36, her big break came on the tiny Apollo label with the track “Move On Up a Little Bit Higher”. Demand so was strong for the track (it is estimated that 8 million copies of the single were eventually sold) that the tiny label had trouble keeping up with demand.
Mahalia Jackson, 1962, photo by Carl Van Vechten, courtesy of the Library of Congress.
Jackson became the first Gospel singer to ever perform at Carnegie Hall, which led to a recording contract with Columbia Records, her home for the decades that followed. She kept her promise never to sing secular music, even though some religious music critics complained about her “bringing Jazz into the church.” Near the end of her life, she was favorite on television programs, being a guest on the Flip Wilson Show and Sesame Street, among others. She died in 1972, leaving a legacy that has yet to be matched or equalled in Gospel music.
Our tracks this week: Title, Year
1. Nobody Knows The Trouble I've Seen, 1963
2. Didn't It Rain (Live), 1958
3. Part IV (Duke Ellington featuring Mahalia Jackson), 1958
4. I've Been Buked, 1963 (recorded live at the March on Washington)
5. Elijah Rock (live in Stockholm), 1961
6. Move On Up A Little Higher, 1947
7. I'm On My Way To Canaan (live), 1964
8. We Shall Overcome, 1963
9. Take My Hand, Precious Lord, 1956
10. Jesus Met the Woman At the Well, 1955
11. You'll Never Walk Alone (live in Stockholm), 1961
12. How I Got Over (live in Stockholm), 1961
Love to you all.
Ben “Bear” Brown Jr., owner
Ace of Spades PDX
“Copyright Disclaimer Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for “fair use” for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use.