Today's Memory

Today’s Memory – Mahalia Jackson

Mahalia Jackson

26 October 1911, New Orleans – 27 January 1972, Evergreen Park, Illinois


Mahalia Jackson was an American gospel music singer, known as the Queen of Gospel Song.

Jackson was brought up in a strict religious atmosphere, being forced to confine her own musical activities to singing in the church choir and listening only recordings of Bessie Smith and Ida Cox as well as of Enrico Caruso.

Jackson first came to wide public attention in the 1930s, when she participated in a cross-country gospel tour singing such songs as He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands and I Can Put My Trust in Jesus.

Mahalia Jackson – He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands

Her first recording, God Gonna Separate the Wheat from the Tares, (1934) was a success, leading to a series of other recordings.

Mahalia Jackson – God Gonna Separate the Wheat from the Tares

Jackson’s first great hit, Move on Up a Little Higher, appeared in 1945. All the songs with which she was identified – including I Believe, Just over the Hill, When I Wake Up in Glory and Just a Little While to Stay Here – were gospel songs, with texts drawn from biblical themes and strongly influenced by the harmonies, rhythms, and emotional force of blues.

Mahalia Jackson – When I Wake Up in Glory

She sang on the radio and on television and, starting in 1950, performed to overflow audiences in annual concerts at Carnegie Hall in New York City. Eight of Jackson’s records sold more than a million copies each.

Mahalia Jackson & Louis Armstrong – Just A Closer Walk With Thee (1970)

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. „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„.

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Mahalia Jackson – Amazing Grace


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