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Mahalia Jackson, one of the world’s greatest gospel singers, who earned a spot in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame was born today – January 27.
Jackson had one of the greatest and beautiful voices of the 20th century. Her music was so inspiring that it made mainstream white listeners appreciate religious music with a black gospel feel.
She was once named one of the 20 most admired people in the world. Jackson was arguably the most popular singer in the history of Christian music
The 20th-century recording artiste known as the ‘Queen of Gospel’ was revered as one of the greatest musical figures in U.S. history. She was commended for her intense devotion to spirituality and her lasting inspiration to listeners of all faiths.
Jackson, who was loved by people of diverse origin, started singing as a child at Mount Moriah Baptist Church and went on to become an international gospel icon for music lovers all over the world.
Born on October 26, 1911, in New Orleans, Louisiana, Jackson moved to Chicago as a young woman with the aim of studying nursing. She reportedly joined the Greater Salem Baptist Church and then became a member of the Johnson Gospel Singers.
According to her biography, Jackson performed with the group for years. Before reaching the pinnacle of her career, she took on a number of jobs working as a laundress, a beautician and also owned a flower shop.
Jackson came to the limelight with her recording “Move On Up a Little Higher” in 1947, which was a major hit and sold millions of copies and became the highest-selling gospel single in history.
The demand for her music rose, resulting in radio and television appearances and tours. On October 4, 1950, Jackson performed to a racially integrated audience in Carnegie Hall.
Her 1952 tour in Europe was so successful that she became so popular in France and Norway. She had her own gospel program on the CBS television network in 1954 and scored a pop hit with “Rusty Old Halo.”
In 1954, Jackson signed with Columbia Records and became the first black gospel singer on a major label. She worked with artistes like Duke Ellington and Thomas A. Dorsey and later in 1959, she appeared in the film, Imitation of Life. The gospel queen also sang at President John F. Kennedy’s inauguration.
Jackson wasn’t just a singer, she was also an active supporter of the Civil Rights Movement. She sang at the March on Washington at the request of her friend Dr Martin Luther King Jr. in 1963, performing “I Been ‘Buked and I Been Scorned.”
In 1966, she published her autobiography Movin’ On Up. After King’s death in 1968, Jackson sang at his funeral and then largely withdrew from public political activities.
Jackson held her final concert in 1971 in Munich, Germany. Having suffered chronic health issues in her later years, she later died of a heart attack on January 27, 1972.