Mahalia Jackson: Queen of Gospel Long Before Queen of Soul


by Renata Johnson

Long before there was the Queen of Soul, there was the Queen of Gospel. A title given to “Mahalia Jackson.” A powerful woman with a love for singing the gospel music. She was born on October 26, 1911, in New Orleans, Louisiana, where she began singing early as a child in Mount Moriah Baptist Church. She later became one of the most revered gospel singers in the United States.

Mahalia Jackson’s voice became one of the constant voices heard in homes all over the country. Not only was her voice constant sound in the African-Americans community, but it was loved in many homes of people with various ethnic backgrounds. People loved to hear her sing because her music had a way of lifting spirits. Even in hours of despair Mahalia Jackson’s music lifted spirits and made people feel like they could go on.

Columbia Records signed her during the mid-1900s and she went on to record 30 albums, with at least 12 of them being “gold”- million-sellers. Her song “Move On Up a Little Higher” sold millions of copies and became world-known around the world. She became an international superstar. There were great legends she worked with during her time such as Thomas A. Dorsey and Duke Ellington. Some of her hit albums are “Silent Night: Songs for Christmas” (1962), “The Power and the Glory” (1960) and the “Black, Brown and Beige” which was performed with Duke Ellington. She often described her music as words of hope. At one point she tried singing the blues, but felt it didn’t do much for uplifting the spirit. She often told people once you finish singing the blues, you still feel depressed with the blues. Little know that Jackson had her own gospel program. The CBS television network aired her gospel program in 1954 where she performed another hit song “Rusty Old Halo.”

Although music was in her heart, she also believed in the rights of all people. She became a civil rights activist and went on to sing at the “March on Washington” at the request of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. At the march she performed another hit song “I Been Buked and Scorned.” After the death of Martin Luther King Jr. she did not perform as much, nor did she continue her duties as a civil rights activist. As her health began to decline she wrote her autobiography, which was published in 1969. Shortly after her the publication in 1971 she suffered a major heart attack and died.


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