October 26, 2009

Happy Birthday, Miss Mahalia

"When you sing gospel you have a feeling there is a cure for what's wrong. But when you are through with the blues, you've got nothing to rest on."

~ Mahalia Jackson, born this day in 1911, who steadfastly refused all offers to get rich singing the blues, because she knew she was born to sing for Jesus Christ.

My mother played Mahalia Jackson's records while she cleaned house when I was a small child.   It was a time when I still felt too small for the oversized world around me, but when the stunning power behind that big, warm, smiling voice vibrated the air in our old wood farmhouse, I felt enlarged inside, and strong.  Her voice buzzed like a wild honeycomb in the center of my chest, and made me want to sing to the Lord in a big, warm, smiling voice, too.

Do watch these to the end -- she gets more and more warmed up as she goes!

Here she sings the gospel tune she sang in Washington, DC right before Martin Luther King rose to deliver his historic "I Have A Dream" speech.

The visual quality of this one is not great, but goodness, her voice is just amazing.  Imagine how she would sound on modern recording equipment!

Thank you, Mother, for giving me ample doses of Mahalia when my ears were still learning what the world should sound like!


rachel tsunami said...

Would it surprise you to know that my mother had Mahalia albums when I was a little girl and played them often? Played them loudly. What a memory.

Anonymous said...

Your post has brought so many wonderful memories. I love Mahalia Jackson! My dad had a few of her records. When I was little, I would lay down beside the stereo and listen to her sing. I was amazed that such a powerful and beautiful voice could come from one person.