Mahalia Jackson

(1911 - 1972)

The daughter of a New Orleans preacher, Mahalia Jackson sang in her father’s church until, at age sixteen, she migrated north to Chicago. There she was selected as a soloist for the choir of the Greater Salem Baptist Church, began touring nationally with a gospel quintet, and made her first solo recordings. In 1947 she became the first gospel singer to reach the number two spot on the Billboard charts. Jackson was eventually given the title “Queen of Gospel Song”; nearly fifty years after her death, Mavis Staples remarked on how her voice could still captivate listeners: “It might make them stop driving. It might make them pull over to the curb and listen. When the song is finished, I guarantee you they will take a deep sigh.”

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