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Mahalia Jackson

Mahalia Jackson was a legendary Gospel singer in the 20th century, born on October 26, 1911 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Often referred to as the ‘Queen of Gospel’, Jackson was revered as an outstanding singer and civil rights activist. Her career spanned 45 years, and in that time, she recorded close to 30 music albums out of which she had almost a dozen Gold-plated sellers. Her fascination with the Blues stemmed from a deep-rooted need to be free and to promote the idea of freedom and hope.

Jackson grew up in a three-room house on Pitt Street in the Carrollton neighborhood in New Orleans, a dwelling that housed almost 13 people. A family of mediocre means, they nevertheless inspired Jackson to pursue a career in music after making her listen to the powerful voices of Ma Rainey, Mamie Smith, and Bessie Smith. At age 5, Jackson’s mother died and this marked an incredibly difficult time in the young singer’s life. Her aunt forced Jackson to clean the house, and upon spotting the slightest bit of leftover dust, would resort to beat the child.

Jackson finally escaped this troubled time by moving to Chicago at age 16. After being spotted singing her favorite song “Hand Me Down My Silver Trumpet, Gabriel” at a local church, Jackson was invited to play with the Johnson Gospel Singers in and around areas of the city. In 1929, Jackson had the privilege of meeting a highly respected composer Thomas Dorsey. They began a 14-year long acquaintance as Jackson would perform for Dorsey on several church programs. Throughout the 1930s, Jackson struggled with several different labels, trying to come up with record breaking singles but failed to do so. It was only by the mid-1940s that she finally discovered her natural groove, recording William Herbert Brewster’s “Move On Up a Little Higher“. One of her most successful hits, and one that she was recognized for the remainder of her career, the song sold almost 8 million copies. She became known not only in the U.S, but in Europe as well, and toured the continent on several

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