136 Facts About Mahalia Jackson


Mahalia Jackson was an American gospel singer, widely considered one of the most influential vocalists of the 20th century.


The granddaughter of enslaved people, Mahalia Jackson was born and raised in poverty in New Orleans.


Mahalia Jackson found a home in her church, leading to a lifelong dedication and singular purpose to deliver God's word through song.


Mahalia Jackson moved to Chicago as an adolescent and joined the Johnson Singers, one of the earliest gospel groups.


Mahalia Jackson was heavily influenced by musician-composer Thomas Dorsey, and by blues singer Bessie Smith, adapting Smith's style to traditional Protestant hymns and contemporary songs.


Mahalia Jackson's recordings captured the attention of jazz fans in the US and France, and she became the first gospel recording artist to tour Europe.


Mahalia Jackson regularly appeared on television and radio, and performed for many presidents and heads of state, including singing the national anthem at John F Kennedy's Inaugural Ball in 1961.


Mahalia Jackson was a vocal and loyal supporter of Martin Luther King Jr.


Completely self-taught, Mahalia Jackson had a keen sense of instinct for music, her delivery marked by extensive improvisation with melody and rhythm.


Mahalia Jackson was renowned for her powerful contralto voice, range, an enormous stage presence, and her ability to relate to her audiences, conveying and evoking intense emotion during performances.


Mahalia Jackson's success brought about international interest in gospel music, initiating the "Golden Age of Gospel" making it possible for many soloists and vocal groups to tour and record.


Mahalia Jackson was born to Charity Clark and Johnny Jackson, a stevedore and weekend barber.


Clark and Mahalia Jackson were unmarried, a common arrangement among black women in New Orleans at the time.


Mahalia Jackson lived elsewhere, never joining Charity as a parent.


Mahalia Jackson was born with bowed legs and infections in both eyes.


Mahalia Jackson's eyes healed quickly but her Aunt Bell treated her legs with grease water massages with little result.


Mahalia Jackson dutifully joined the children's choir at age four.


When Mahalia Jackson was five, her mother became ill and died, the cause unknown.


The full-time minister there gave sermons with a sad "singing tone" that Mahalia Jackson later said would penetrate to her heart, crediting it with strongly influencing her singing style.


Mahalia Jackson attended McDonough School 24, but was required to fill in for her various aunts if they were ill, so she rarely attended a full week of school; when she was 10, the family needed her more at home.


Mahalia Jackson worked, and she went to church on Wednesday evenings, Friday nights, and most of the day on Sundays.


Mahalia Jackson was surrounded by music in New Orleans, more often blues pouring out of her neighbors' houses, although she was fascinated with second line funeral processions returning from cemeteries when the musicians played brisk jazz.


The family had a phonograph and while Aunt Duke was at work, Mahalia Jackson played records by Bessie Smith, Mamie Smith, and Ma Rainey, singing along while she scrubbed floors.


Mahalia Jackson's legs began to straighten on their own when she was 14, but conflicts with Aunt Duke never abated.


The power of Mahalia Jackson's voice was readily apparent but the congregation was unused to such an animated delivery.


Mahalia Jackson was nonetheless invited to join the 50-member choir, and a vocal group formed by the pastor's sons, Prince, Wilbur, and Robert Johnson, and Louise Lemon.


Mahalia Jackson accused her of blasphemy, bringing "twisting jazz" into the church.


Mahalia Jackson was often so involved in singing she was mostly unaware how she moved her body.


Mahalia Jackson recruited Jackson to stand on Chicago street corners with him and sing his songs, hoping to sell them for ten cents a page.


When she first arrived in Chicago, Mahalia Jackson dreamed of being a nurse or a teacher, but before she could enroll in school she had to take over Aunt Hannah's job when she became ill.


Mahalia Jackson became a laundress and took a series of domestic and factory jobs while the Johnson Singers began to make a meager living, earning from $1.50 to $8 a night.


Mahalia Jackson began calling herself a "fish and bread singer", working for herself and God.


Mahalia Jackson made her first recordings in 1931, singles that she intended to sell at National Baptist Convention meetings, though she was mostly unsuccessful.


Mahalia Jackson had become the only professional gospel singer in Chicago.


Mahalia Jackson pleaded with God to spare him, swearing she would never go to a theater again.


Mahalia Jackson survived and Jackson kept her promise, refusing to attend as a patron and rejecting opportunities to sing in theaters for her entire career.


Mahalia Jackson furthermore vowed to sing gospel exclusively despite intense pressure.


In 1935, Mahalia Jackson met Isaac "Ike" Hockenhull, a chemist working as a postman during the Depression.


Hockenhull and Mahalia Jackson made cosmetics in their kitchen and she sold jars when she traveled.


At one point Hockenhull had been laid off and he and Mahalia Jackson had less than a dollar between them.


Mahalia Jackson saw that auditions for The Swing Mikado, a jazz-flavored retelling of the Gilbert and Sullivan opera, were taking place.


Mahalia Jackson demanded she go; the role would pay $60 a week.


Mahalia Jackson had repeatedly urged her to get formal training and put her voice to better use.


Mahalia Jackson furthermore turned down Louis Armstrong and Earl "Fatha" Hines when they offered her jobs singing with their bands.


In 1937, Mahalia Jackson met Mayo "Ink" Williams, a music producer who arranged a session with Decca Records.


Mahalia Jackson told neither her husband or Aunt Hannah, who shared her house, of this session.


Singers, male and female, visited while Mahalia Jackson cooked for large groups of friends and customers on a two-burner stove in the rear of the salon.


Mahalia Jackson was able to emote and relate to audiences profoundly well; her goal was to "wreck" a church, or cause a state of spiritual pandemonium among the audience which she did consistently.


Mahalia Jackson bought a building as a landlord, then found the salon so successful she had to hire help to care for it when she traveled on weekends.


Mahalia Jackson laid the stash in flat bills under a rug assuming he would never look there, then went to a weekend performance in Detroit.


Mahalia Jackson paid for it entirely, then learned he had used it as collateral for a loan when she saw it being repossessed in the middle of the day on the busiest street in Bronzeville.


Each engagement Mahalia Jackson took was farther from Chicago in a nonstop string of performances.


Mahalia Jackson bought and played them repeatedly on his show.


Terkel introduced his mostly white listeners to gospel music and Mahalia Jackson herself, interviewing her and asking her to sing live.


Mahalia Jackson campaigned for Harry Truman, earning her first invitation to the White House.


Mahalia Jackson was intimidated by this offer and dreaded the approaching date.


The revue was so successful it was made an annual event with Mahalia Jackson headlining for years.


Mahalia Jackson bought her records, took them home and played them on French public radio.


Mahalia Jackson was accompanied by her pianist Mildred Falls, together performing 21 songs with question and answer sessions from the audience, mostly filled with writers and intellectuals.


Mahalia Jackson's records were sent to the UK, traded there among jazz fans, earning Jackson a cult following on both sides of the Atlantic, and she was invited to tour Europe.


Mahalia Jackson had her first television appearance on Toast of the Town with Ed Sullivan in 1952.


Mahalia Jackson continued with her plans for the tour where she was very warmly received.


Mahalia Jackson played numerous shows while in pain, sometimes collapsing backstage.


Mahalia Jackson lost a significant amount of weight during the tour, finally having to cancel.


Mahalia Jackson was diagnosed with sarcoidosis, a systemic inflammatory disease caused by immune cells forming lumps in organs throughout the body.


Sarcoidosis is not curable, though it can be treated, and following the surgery, Mahalia Jackson's doctors were cautiously optimistic that with treatment she could carry on as normal.


In 1954, Mahalia Jackson learned that Berman had been withholding royalties and had allowed her contract with Apollo to expire.


Mitch Miller offered her a $50,000-a-year four-year contract, and Mahalia Jackson became the first gospel artist to sign with Columbia Records, a much larger company with the ability to promote her nationally.


Mahalia Jackson appeared on a local television program, titled The Mahalia Jackson Show, which again got a positive reception but was canceled for lack of sponsors.


Mahalia Jackson attracted the attention of the William Morris Agency, a firm that promoted her by booking her in large concert halls and television appearances with Arthur Godfrey, Dinah Shore, Bing Crosby, and Perry Como in the 1950s.


Mahalia Jackson appeared at the 1956 Democratic National Convention, silencing a rowdy hall of attendees with "I See God".


Mahalia Jackson broke into films playing a missionary in St Louis Blues, and a funeral singer in Imitation of Life.


Mahalia Jackson often asked ushers to allow white and black people to sit together, sometimes asking the audiences to integrate themselves by telling them that they were all Christian brothers and sisters.


The broadcast earned excellent reviews, and Mahalia Jackson received congratulatory telegrams from across the nation.


Mahalia Jackson often sang to support worthy causes for no charge, such as raising money to buy a church an organ, robes for choirs, or sponsoring missionaries.


Mahalia Jackson extended this to civil rights causes, becoming the most prominent gospel musician associated with King and the civil rights movement.


Mahalia Jackson raised money for the United Negro College Fund and sang at the Prayer Pilgrimage Breakfast in 1957.


Mahalia Jackson later stated she felt God had especially prepared King "with the education and the warmth of spirit to do His work".


Mahalia Jackson and Mildred Falls stayed at Abernathy's house in a room that was bombed four months later.


Mahalia Jackson similarly supported a group of black sharecroppers in Tennessee facing eviction for voting.


Mahalia Jackson appeared at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1957 and 1958, and in the latter's concert film, Jazz on a Summer's Day.


Mahalia Jackson's continued television appearances with Steve Allen, Red Skelton, Milton Berle, and Jimmy Durante kept her in high demand.


Mahalia Jackson toured Europe again in 1961 with incredible success, mobbed in several cities and needing police escorts.


Mahalia Jackson lent her support to King and other ministers in 1963 after their successful campaign to end segregation in Birmingham by holding a fundraising rally to pay for protestors' bail.


Three months later, while rehearsing for an appearance on Danny Kaye's television show, Mahalia Jackson was inconsolable upon learning that Kennedy had been assassinated, believing that he died fighting for the rights of black Americans.


Mahalia Jackson appeared in the film The Best Man, and attended a ceremony acknowledging Lyndon Johnson's inauguration at the White House, becoming friends with Lady Bird.


Mostly in secret, Mahalia Jackson had paid for the education of several young people as she felt poignant regret that her own schooling was cut short.


Mahalia Jackson's house had a steady flow of traffic that she welcomed.


Mahalia Jackson had thoroughly enjoyed cooking since childhood, and took great pleasure in feeding all of her visitors, some of them staying days or weeks on her request.


Since the cancellation of her tour to Europe in 1952, Mahalia Jackson experienced occasional bouts of fatigue and shortness of breath.


Mahalia Jackson's recovery took a full year during which she was unable to tour or record, ultimately losing 50 pounds.


Mahalia Jackson tried taking over managerial duties from agents and promoters despite being inept.


Mahalia Jackson responded by requesting a jury trial, rare for divorces, in an attempt to embarrass her by publicizing the details of their marital problems.


Mahalia Jackson's doctors cleared her to work and Jackson began recording and performing again, pushing her limitations by giving two- and three-hour concerts.


Mahalia Jackson performed exceptionally well belying her personal woes and ongoing health problems.


Mahalia Jackson attended the funeral in Atlanta where she gave one of her most memorable performances of "Take My Hand, Precious Lord".


Mahalia Jackson purchased a lavish condominium in Chicago overlooking Lake Michigan and set up room for Galloway, whom she was considering remarrying.


Mahalia Jackson embarked on a tour of Europe in 1968, which she cut short for health reasons, but she returned in 1969 to adoring audiences.


In 1971, Mahalia Jackson made television appearances with Johnny Cash and Flip Wilson.


Mahalia Jackson received a funeral service at Greater Salem Baptist Church in Chicago where she was still a member.


Mahalia Jackson's body was returned to New Orleans where she lay in state at Rivergate Auditorium under a military and police guard, and 60,000 people viewed her casket.


Mahalia Jackson was mostly untrained, never learning to read or write musical notation, so her style was heavily marked by instinct.


Mahalia Jackson's voice is noted for being energetic and powerful, ranging from contralto to soprano, which she switched between rapidly.


Mahalia Jackson resisted labeling her voice range instead calling it "real strong and clear".


Mahalia Jackson used bent or "worried" notes typical of blues, the sound of which jazz aficionado Bucklin Moon described as "an almost solid wall of blue tonality".


Mahalia Jackson moaned, hummed, and improvised extensively with rhythm and melody, often embellishing notes with a prodigious use of melisma, or singing several tones per syllable.


Mahalia Jackson continues: "bending a note here, chopping off a note there, singing through rest spots and ornamenting the melodic line at will, [Jackson] confused pianists but fascinated those who played by ear".


Mahalia Jackson often stretched what would be a five-minute recording to twenty-five minutes to achieve maximum emotional effect.


Mahalia Jackson estimated that she sold 22 million records in her career.


Mahalia Jackson's singing is lively, energetic, and emotional, using "a voice in the prime of its power and command", according to author Bob Darden.


Mahalia Jackson was marketed to appeal to a wide audience of listeners who, despite all her accomplishments up to 1954, had never heard of her.


Mahalia Jackson was marketed similarly to jazz musicians, but her music at Columbia ultimately defied categorization.


Mahalia Jackson's albums interspersed familiar compositions by Thomas Dorsey and other gospel songwriters with songs considered generally inspirational.


Mahalia Jackson agreed somewhat, acknowledging that her sound was being commercialized, calling some of these recordings "sweetened-water stuff".


Mahalia Jackson roared like a Pentecostal preacher, she moaned and growled like the old Southern mothers, she hollered the gospel blues like a sanctified Bessie Smith and she cried into the Watts' hymns like she was back in a slave cabin.


In live performances, Mahalia Jackson was renowned for her physicality and the extraordinary emotional connections she held with her audiences.


All of these were typical of the services in black churches though Mahalia Jackson's energy was remarkable.


Mahalia Jackson doesn't sing to fracture any cats, or to capture any Billboard polls, or because she wants her recording contract renewed.


Mahalia Jackson never denied her background and she never lost her 'down home' sincerity.


Until 1946, Mahalia Jackson used an assortment of pianists for recording and touring, choosing anyone who was convenient and free to go with her.


Mahalia Jackson found this in Mildred Falls, who accompanied her for 25 years.


Mahalia Jackson was born Mildred Carter in Magnolia, Mississippi, learning to play on her family's upright piano, working with church choirs, and moving to California with a gospel singing group.


Always on the lookout for new material, Mahalia Jackson received 25 to 30 compositions a month for her consideration.


Mahalia Jackson's left hand provided a "walking bass line that gave the music its 'bounce'", common in stride and ragtime playing.


The NBC boasted a membership of four million, a network that provided the source material that Mahalia Jackson learned in her early years and from which she drew during her recording career.


Mahalia Jackson's success was recognized by the NBC when she was named its official soloist, and uniquely, she was bestowed universal respect in a field of very competitive and sometimes territorial musicians.


Mahalia Jackson has, almost singlehandedly, brought about a wide, and often non-religious interest in the gospel singing of the Negro.


Mahalia Jackson, who enjoyed music of all kinds, noticed, attributing the emotional punch of rock and roll to Pentecostal singing.


Mahalia Jackson was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the Early influence category in 1997.


Mahalia Jackson's success had a profound effect on black American identity, particularly for those who did not assimilate comfortably into white society.


Mahalia Jackson was often compared to opera singer Marian Anderson, as they both toured Europe, included spirituals in their repertoires, and sang in similar settings.


Mahalia Jackson considered Anderson an inspiration, and earned an invitation to sing at Constitution Hall in 1960,21 years after the Daughters of the American Revolution forbade Anderson from performing there in front of an integrated audience.


Mahalia Jackson made me drop my bonds and become really emancipated.


Malcolm X noted that Mahalia Jackson was "the first Negro that Negroes made famous".


Mahalia Jackson was featured on the album's vocal rendition of Ellington's composition "Come Sunday", which subsequently became a jazz standard.


Mahalia Jackson organized a 1969 concert called A Salute to Black Women, the proceeds of which were given to her foundation providing college scholarships to black youth.