Gospel Music


Gospel Music Essay, Research Paper

By 1945, nearly everyone in the African American community had heard gospel music (2). At

this time, gospel music was a sacred folk music with origins in field hollers, work songs,

slave songs, Baptist lining hymns, and Negro spirituals. These songs that influenced gospel

music were adapted and reworked into expressions of praise and thanks of the community.

Although the harmonies were similar to those of the blues or hymns in that they shared the

same simplicity, the rhythm was much different. The rhythms often times had the music with

its unique accents, the speech, walk, and laughter which brought along with it synchronized

movements. (2) The gospel piano style was based on the rhythm section concept, where the

middle of the piano was used to support the singers. This area supported the singers by

doubling the vocal line in harmony. The bottom, left corner of the piano was used as a bass

fiddle while the upper right hand portion played the counter melodies, taking the place of a

trumpet or flute. It was the right hand corner that filled in the material during the rhythmic

breaks. Often times the text of the gospel songs portrayed meanings of the Trinity,

blessings, thanks and lamentations. The singers used the voices to communicate their

feelings about Christianity. Many singers sang through the problems and moved their

audiences, often congregations, so much so that the audience forgot their own problems

temporarily and the weights of the world were taken away through the music. (2) During the

beginning of the Golden Age of Gospel (1945-1955), gospel music reached a near perfection

and had a huge, devote audience. The call and response form in particular flourished in the

new type of music. The African American gospel song had a unique power and ability to

overcome. It was a means of transcending the listeners, singers and entire congregation to a

higher spiritual and emotional level. During the post-Civil War years, the congregation style

of singing was transformed by the new Pentecostal congregations, also known as Holiness

and Sanctified. (5) African American gospel music was a twentieth century phenomenon

which evolved through the people that moved from rural communities to urban centers in

cities. They left their areas of limited promise and social and economic terror in hopes of

starting over. (4) Gospel was s style of repertoire and singing. The music was delivered as a

high powered spiritual force. The emphasis was placed on the vocal rhythms. Gospel music

combined call and response forms, with slow-metered , lined out protestant hymns. Born in

1912, Mahalia Jackson was the third of six children. Growing up in segregated, racist times,

Mahalia lived in what she called a ?shotgun shack?. White folks owned the bars and grocery

stores of the neighborhood. Blacks were left with the left over jobs, often working for white

families, or working on the railroad tracks. Mahalia?s father found work on the riverfront,

dock towns and on the boats. On Sundays, her father worked preaching in a Baptist church.

For as hard as her parents worked, money always seemed to be short. When Mahalia was

only five years old, her mother died. Her father remarried and acquired a whole new family

with the marriage. Although she never earned any pay for her work, Mahalia began doing

chores for her Aunt Duke after school. Both sets of Mahalia?s grandparents were born into

slavery and she was doomed to head the same way. When Mahalia was in eight grade, she

began to look for work outside of her aunt?s chores and got a job as a laundress. (4) When

Mahalia finally became famous, she always demanded her payments in cash, paid up-front.

The reason for her requests was because often times during her childhood years, they never

received the payments they worked hard to receive. They would often be cheated out of their

sums because plantation owners claimed that the money they earned was equal to their fees

for room and board. (1) When Mahalia was just a small child, everyone that knew her agreed

that she possessed something special. At eight years old, she had an uncommonly large

voice. Using her talented voice both in and outside of church, she gained much praise. She of

acquired a rich range spirituals and hymns. (5)Living in New Orleans, music was all around

her and the city was filled with performing bands, pianists and various other types of

musicians. It was almost as if everyone in the city of New Orleans knew how to play a

musical instrument or sing a song. The new music was being produced for and by blacks. It

because a tradition to hire brass bands to lead the funeral parade. This is only one small

example of the good time spirit of the city. To them, they cried at the incoming of child and

rejoiced at the outgoing. Death was something that was celebrated, not feared. This type of

music played after burying the dead was called Second Line music. People would line the

curbs and the returning band and dancing crowd often times attracted many fans. Despite the

fact that someone had died, people were always happy. (1) The music meant something to

them. It was the music of their souls and it was part of the New Orleans people and they

way they did things. (3) When Mahalia moved up North she said that a lot of people

questioned her about the way she sang religious songs. She would tell these people that she

sang the songs the way she grew up hearing them. Many people think that is sounds like

jazz, but to her she knew no different as a small child. Mahalia saw little difference between

gospel and folk music. Some people claim that since Gospel and folk songs didn?t take a lot

of long studying, then they were ashamed by them. (1) They were considered simple songs

of people?s hearts. People figured that if a song came from the heart then it must be too easy

and should not be considered ?art?, as we know it. These people?s opinions angered Mahalia

and she strongly disagreed with them. She liked to sing gospel songs for herself. There were

times when she felt like she was so far from God and the gospel songs were deep and had

special meanings. They could bring back the communication and connection between oneself

and God. (2) Mahalia first heard Bessie Smiths song, ?Careless Love? when her cousin,

Young Fred, brought home the new recordings. Young Fred was Aunt Duke?s son and he

and Mahalia were very close growing up. Mahalia and Fred would listen to the new

recordings for hours on Fred?s phonograph, helping to ease a long, tiresome day of school

and work. Outside of Mahalia?s family, the thing of next most importance in her life was her

church, Mount Moriah Baptist Church. (3) She claims that it was the foot tapping and hand

clapping of the congregation in her church that she credit for her ?bounce? of her music. She

enjoyed singing the songs, which testified the glory of the Lord. A Baptist all her life, it was

actually her adoration of the Sanctified or Holiness church that affected her life and art.

Although the Baptists had an organ and sang songs, the Sanctified Church had cymbals,

drums, strings and tambourines that went along with the beat of vigorous hand clapping.

Mahalia go so into the church music that she claims she was carried away by the spirit and

the passion that filled her as she performed literally transported her out of herself. Mahalia

always loved the church because of its powerful music. From her experiences in the church,

she grew to sing the way she does today. (1) It was the way the preacher would sing, chant,

cry, moan and shout in a groaning way that penetrated into her and other members of the

congregation?s hearts. (1) Fred, Mahalia?s cousin and good friend was killed in an

after-hours saloon brawl. This was her signal that she needed to move on with her life and

get out of her Aunts house where she was abused. (1) She was ready to move out of

adolescence and experience what life had to offer for her. The music that Mahalia and Fred

listened to as children, (Dixieland music from various dance halls in their town) was music

for the common people. She was out to seek her new musical destiny on a fresh, new place.

Mahalia and her Aunt Hannah boarded the Illinois Central for a three-day trip to Chicago.

The accommodations were ?separate yet equal? according to the Supreme Courts decision in

1893, yet Mahalia and her aunt found themselves eating the food they had brought

themselves since they were not allowed in the dining room, in packed, unheated conditions.

(5) Upon arriving in Chicago, Mahalia found a job in the laundries working at a wash job.

While she dreamed of becoming a nurse, she was faced with a wash job, or the option to

work for a white family on the rich North Side. Her choices were ones of dirty, hard work and

long workdays but she knew she had no other choice. In her new home, on of her top

priorities was finding a new church. Her aunt brought her along to the Greater Salem Baptist

Church where she was warmly welcomed and became a member of their choir almost

immediately. Although she was living in poor conditions, working hard for little to no money,

she kept her faith, knowing that the Lord had his arms around her. She credits the

Depression for her whole career in gospel singing because it was these experiences that

helped shape who she was and her way of life. (3) Mahalia became a member of the Johnson

Singers, a group that sang in neighborhood churches for minimal money. Eventually this

group began to work its way up and performed as headliners for the out-of-town Baptist

conventions. Mahalia?s first and last music lesson took place at the South Side music school,

by a tenor, Professor DuBois, a man of local fame. As her lesson progressed we can see why

she never wanted to return. Her teacher, Mr. DuBois, told her that she had better stop

hollering and insisted that she would have a better appeal with the white people, who would

better understand her singing. She was thoroughly insulted to say the least and never

desired another lesson. (5) At the age of twenty-three, the year being 1935, Mahalia was

still living in Chicago and finally found the love of her life. Isaac Hockenhull, a friend from the

many church sponsored socials that she attended, was the lucky man. Isaac knew he wanted

to marry Mahalia and was convinced that she could get her voice trained so she could

become a concert artist. In 1938, the two were married and lived happily together for a few

years to come. Mahalia opened her own business as a hairdresser and soon expanded to sell

cosmetics. (1) Next, she added a floral shop to her list and they were doing very well

financially. Ike was still convinced that Mahalia needed to take her vocal talents one step

further and convinced her to meet with Madame Anita Patty Brown, who had once been an

opera singer and was a celebrated voice of the South Side. Although the lesson went well,

Mahalia had her mind set on singing gospel and she disregarded Ikes input if it suggested

anything different. While taking voice lessons from Madame Brown, Mahalia was also

working with Thomas Dorsey, the choirmaster for many of the Baptist churches in Chicago

and the leading gospel composer. Ike presented Mahalia with another opportunity. He had

heard that the Federal Theater project was in the area and they were casting a production

called ?The Hot Mikado?. Mahalia auditioned and won a leading role but refused the job.

Things between Ike and Mahalia began to worsen and they were beginning to come apart

over gospel singing. Ike had a gambling problem, which didn?t help their relationship, and

they separated and eventually got a divorce, continuing to remain friends. (4) In 1933,

Mahalia was given the opportunity to return to New Orleans and visit her family. When

attending a tent show back home in Greenville, she met the acquaintance of an

eight-year-old boy named John Sellers. She was very impressed with his talents and they

two remained friends. John would often stop by randomly to visit Mahalia and he turned

toward Mahalia as a role model. Living with his Aunt Carrie, John got kicked out of the house

over a disagreement and moved in with Mahalia was said that her home was his home. An

opportunity knocked on Mahalia?s door when he was offered a job working for a family in a

small South Side apartment. (5)This family, the MacIvers, employed John and gave him his

own apartment and five dollars a week. Still staying in touch with Mahalia, John attended

church with her one Sunday afternoon and joined her in singing. John Sellers quickly became

known as ?Brother John? in the church circle and his relationship with Mahalia began to slip

away. (3) In Mahalias first performing days in Chicago, many of the ministers rejected her.

They claimed that Mahalia had a tendency to shake and twist about which were movements,

which were inappropriate for the pulpit. She agreed to their conditions to wear suitable

clothing/robes and concealed her vaulting feelings. (1) Right after V-J Day, Louis Terkel, a

well-known Chicago raconteur, started a radio program he called ?The Wax Museum? on the

station WENR. Terkel was the first to introduce black entertainers and ethnic music on the

white airwaves of Chicago. He played the recording of ?I?m Goin to Tell God All About It? on

his 78 record. He asked Mahalia Jackson to come on his show for an interview and she

agreed. Her airtime introduced her to the world beyond her church community. Mahalia?s call

and response, give and take, and her body, hand and foot movements were mesmerizing. Her

radio appearances brought a new beat, a musical stirring to white ears that they had never

heard before. She surprised her audience with a celebratory life force and a segregated

healing sound that had sustained black people in their anguish and acted as a separator from

the mainstream of American life. The sounds that Mahalia could create so magnificently

helped white embrace gospel for the first time, as they had already accepted jazz and blues.

(1) In 1946 Mahalia met the acquaintance of Bess Berman, a woman of New York in the

recording business. Bess fell in love with Mahalia?s gospel voice and signed her for a

recording contract. She promised Mahalia $10,000 a year but her music was not being

accepted as well as they had hoped. Bess allowed Mahalia one more chance to revive the

interest of the listeners. Mahalia was determined that she could add her own unique

swinging style to a song by Reverend Brewster, called ?Move On Up a Little Higher?, a song

that had not moved far out of the black church circle. Her idea proved to be extremely

successful and produced royalties of over $300,000 for Mahalia in the first year alone.

Mahalia was unaware the a woman by the name of Rosetta Tharp was a competitor of hers

in the gospel field and had a contract previous to hers with Jukebox Berman. Tharp?s contract

included veto power on any gospel competitor that Berman might want to sign. Mahalia was

outraged but was forced to stop recording any jukebox numbers. That was not the last that

Mahalia heard from Rosetta. The Golden Gate in Harlem was redesigned to an auditorium

and became the mecca for gospel and jazz. Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Rosetta Tharp, and

Mahalia Jackson were star performers. (1) In 1951, Joe Bostic, Mahalia?s church agent

decided to take a very big gamble. He wanted to expand his horizons for his gospel clients

and rented Carnegie Hall. This gamble turned out to be a great success and every seat sold

out! That evening broke all house records, including the ones set by Toscanini and Benny

Goodman. By 1955, Mahalia was no longer working with Bess Berman?s Apollo Records,

but had moved on to Columbia Records. Columbia Records called Mahalia ?the worlds

greatest gospel singer?. (2) Working along side of Mahalia and also deserving much

recognition is Mildred Falls, Mahalia?s pianist and organist. In the summer of 1951, Mahalia

and Mildred were invited to attend the Music Inn, a prestigious summer school of the

Greenwich community as guests of Marshall Stearns, the Inn?s creator. Stearns knew

Mahalia’s recordings from Apollo Records very well and invited the two to spend the

weekend in the jazz ?think tank?. Mahalia strongly believed that every man and woman

needed something to believe in, something they could look up to. For Mahalia, it was the

gospel that she believed in and it was the gospel that uplifted her. She saw nothing wrong

with selling the gospel in the market place as long as it was pure and untainted. (4)

Beginning in the mid-1930?s vocal ministers and board members of black churches opposed,

resented and were horrified of the decent of gospel songs into wide popularity. Mahalia did

what came natural to her and gained great fame through her unique style. Although she broke

every rule of concert singing from breathing in the middle of a word and garbling words

together, her full throated feelings and expressions made up the difference! While at the

Music Inn, Hammond sought out Mahalia and wished to talk to her about her recording

future. Representing Columbia, he reminded Mahalia that her current contract with Bess

Berman was under shaky conditions, considering that Bess was under financial stress.

Columbia offered Mahalia more money then Bess in the future. In 1952, the agreement

between Mahalia and Bess began to shatter. At this point, Mahalia picked up the phone and

called Mitch Miller, the contract negotiator for Columbia and asked that he send her a

contract. Although she did not jump to sign the contract when it arrived, on Easter Sunday

night, Mahalia felt that she had received a sign from god and signed the contract

immediately. (5) A friend of Mahalia?s, Stern Terkel, took on a position working at the CBS

radio show in 1954, when Mahalia learned that the show needed a staff writer. CBS did not

support the idea of having Terkel work for them but they agreed to Mahalia?s requests as

long as they both understood that his name would not appear in the program credits or

advertising. For twenty weeks, the Mahalia Jackson Show ran on television for a half-hour

each episode. Beginning in September 1954, the show did not last very long. Mahalia?s show

featured her singing traditional gospels and spirituals with a few miscellaneous songs but

the show was missing a major component. (2) The show was in need of a sponsor and began

to go out of business. The show went from thirty minutes airtime to ten minutes and

eventually ended in February 1955. This was not the end of Mahalia’s television

appearances however. The TV station, WBBM-TV of Chicago asked Mahalia to be a guest

on their program, ?In Town Tonight?. This pleased her very much because until that point,

neither she nor any other black entertainers had been sought after by networks. She once

again asked that her friend Terkel be employed as writer of the TV show when she appeared.

They agreed to her requests but once again declared that Terkel would have to remain

anonymous. While with Columbia, George Avakian was assigned to be Mahalia?s artist and

repertoire man. (5) When Mahalia performed time was a key element to her. She wanted to

make sure she had enough time to leave the audience with her intended message. Mahalia

became annoyed with the television and radio broadcasters because she claimed that the

first thing they wanted to do was to rush her and start warning her of her time limits. ?Before

you knew it, they?d start cutting you off?, she claimed. To her, real gospel singing was more

then just entertainment. She stressed her desire to get a message in people?s heads and did

not want to be rushed. She was starting to make good money and felt that people show

respect her and listen to her requests. These were her five years of her ascendancy into the

white music market. (1) In between concerts and broadcasts, Mahalia could be found with

Mildred and her cousin John Stevens, who drove the ladies around in Mahalia?s purple

Cadillac. Mahalia remembers the difficulties they went through as they traveled and they

harsh prejudices they faced. She can recall a time when they couldn?t find a single place to

eat or sleep along the major highways. People refused to serve them because of their skin

color. Some gasoline stations even refused to sell them gas, making their journeys very

difficult. In the pre-civil war days, black-touring companies were in fierce competition. It

was a tradition for them to request their payments in cash at the conclusion of the program.

They musicians and performers were forced to guard their earnings with their dear life. They

often their money in their shoes or undergarments. Living conditions during Mahalia?s time

were difficult and due to the circumstances listed above, she often found herself sleeping in

her car alongside the road. Police rarely ever showed respect towards anyone of color.

Racism flew like mad. (1) In 1955, Rosa Parks, a seamstress from Montgomery, Alabama,

boarded the bus as usual but proceeded to take the first available seat in the front section,

which by law was reserved for whites. When asked to, Rosa refused to give up her seat and

she was arrested and briefly jailed. In 1956 Mahalia was visited by Reverend Ralph

Abernathy, a colleague of Martin Luther Kings. Reverend Abernathy explained that the St.

John A.M.E. Church in Montgomery was planning on honoring Ms. Parks and they wanted

Mahalia to participate by playing a bracing musical interlude. She agreed and was a huge

success. In 1957, Mahalia had saved enough money to purchase of home of her very own.

She bought a single level house with a small garage in Indiana Avenue, which was mostly a

white neighborhood in the South Side of Chicago. Unfortunately with her choice of locations,

Mahalia faced severe discrimination once again. An unidentified person fired air-rifle pellets

into her front window. This was only once incident in the rising tide of racism. (1) Once

again, another opportunity opened up for Mahalia to go on television. Dinah Shore, a top TV

personality of the day, insisted that her network, CBS enter into a contract with Mahalia,

having her appear on the ?Dinah Shore Show?. Mahalia agreed and was quite pleased with

her wide reception. This TV appearance brought along with it numerous opportunities for

Mahalia. Columbia offered new recording dates, numerous TV guests shots, and various

nightclubs offers. (2) In 1958, Douglas Sirk directed the film Imitation of Life, and asked

Mahalia to be a part of this movie. Mahalia agreed and played the part of Louise Beaver, a

happy ?colored? servant. After this films release, Mahalia made a guest appearance on TV

with Bing Crosby and Dean Martin. She was in the business big time and was making big

money. The fame and success she had always dreamed of was becoming a reality. (4) The

call and response gospel style was Mahalia?s signature and Mildred never lost her way with

that style. Without Mildred?s blues chords, triplets and four-four bouncing, Mahalia?s art

would have been much weaker. Mildred have Mahalia the latitude she needed along with the

freedom to adlib new lyrics, break time and alter the melodies in the heat of building the

meaning of the song. Unfortunately, the conditions under which Mildred worked for Mahalia

were poor. (1) Mahalia tended to be cautious with her money and severely underpaid

Mildred considering all she did for her. When Mildred got up the nerve to ask for a raise so

she could afford to live in a motel and eat out, Mahalia fired her. When Mahalia had money,

no one could talk to her and she would close out anything and everything that she didn?t

want to get involved with. (1) Good news came for Mahalia when George Avakian and his

wife asked her to participate in a New York concert that would be performed in the Town

Hall. Gospel songs and spirituals were considered serious and sacred music for the black

church congregation. The ?blues? were often considered sinful since they were secular with

origins from the streets, alleys and barrelhouses. Brother John Sellers grew up in the

Mississippi River towns and was exposed to gospel, blues, and eventually jazz. He loved

these aspects of music and decided to cut his dependency with Mahalia Jackson. (2) In 1953,

John Hammond was making a name for himself and was drafted by Maynard and Seymour

Solomon, the producers of Vanguard Records. Before John took off, playing in concerts in

Canada and Europe, John recorded two albums with them. Big Bill gave John an open

invitation to when the time came for him to separate from Mahalia. By 1958, John took Bill up

on his offer and joined him willingly. By 1955, Big Bill had achieved celebrity status in

England; he introduced Mahalia to the audiences in the Albert Hall. Mahalia joined Bill on

his program of blues and jazz. London?s first response to Mahalia?s gospel music was cold

and bitter due to the fact that they were a stiff-baked audience and her performance was

filled with melancholy. Mahalia, not accepting rejection well, left England and went to

Scandinavia where the audience widely received her talents. (1) Brother John returned to

New York where he helped launch a new nightclub called Gerde?s Folk City. Students

everywhere found enjoyment in hanging out in nightclubs where drinks and entertainment

was cheap and they could enjoy the roots of music in jazz, folk and blues. Brother John

performed regularly at the nightclub, Folk City, for a few seasons. The blues music was

popular but Mahalia refused to perform it herself, sticking to her gospel music. (3) Mahalia

had gained an acquaintance, Martin Luther King, from when she supported the efforts in

Montgomery. Mahalia loved to listen to what King had to say and saw her voice as a

weapon for change. In May 1957, Mahalia sang at the Christian Leadership Conference held

at Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. The time for compromise was over. In May 1954,

the Supreme Court decided to act on the case known as Brown et al. V. United States,

dealing with the reconsideration of the Fourteenth Amendment. For the first time in history,

segregation was declared unequal, unfair and undemocratic. The community would no longer

face ?separate but equal? facilities. Progression was underway, or so it seemed. Race

relations collapsed in Birmingham. The three principal black leaders, King, Shuttlesworth,

and Abernathy began the morning of April 12, 1963 in leading a protest march. These three

leaders were arrested and jailed as a result. Disruptions continued as four little black girls

were killed and fourteen others were wounded as the children attended a bible class in

Birmingham. In mid-June, three college youths, 2 white students and one black, were found,

executed Klan style. It was following this incident in 1988 that Alan Parker produced the film,

Mississippi Burning, in which Mahalia Jackson recording of ?Take My Hand, Precious Lord?

was the opening theme for the soundtrack and was under the main credit for the film. The

trouble continued. On February 21, 1965, Malcolm X, a Black Nationalist, was shot point

blank by three men in his audience. As you can see, Mahalia moved through an illicit world of

race, politics and commerce. Mahalia believed that too many people were dragging their feet

and she was filled with anxiety. (1) In August 1963, the White House lawn was covered

with swarms of people who had taken the day off from being mean to each other. It was a

nation of people marching together. Mahalia joined Martin Luther King for his speech as she

sang ?I Been Buked and I Been Scorned?. For King, this song gave meaning and explanation

behind why so many blacks had made such a great personal sacrifice. When Mahalia worked

with King, she saw herself playing a role in changing America. King enriched Mahalia and

encouraged her to become more politically involved and make her voice be heard. She

acquired responsibility beyond her image as a gospel singer. She definitely lived a very full

life.(2) On November 22, 1963, the nation watched in amazement, as one or more

sharpshooters gunned down the President. Mahalia felt it was her duty to perform on TV for

this sad occasion and sang ?Nearer My God to Thee?. At this point, Mahalia was fifty-one

and her health began to be undermined. Mahalia traveled abroad from Europe to the Middle

East, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and finally Israel, the Holy Land. Some of her final trips included

India, Japan and Europe once more. When she returned home, Columbia records began to

worry about her health and scheduled multiple recording sessions figuring the day was

nearing when she would become too sick to continue recording. The world was changing

along with many people?s views. Martin Luther King called upon Mahalia when he was in

need of help. He knew that Mahalia had a strong alliance with Chicago City Hall and Mayor

Daley and he wished to make an appearance with the help of Mahalia?s connections in

Chicago. This event was set for May 27. By 1968, President Johnson?s ?Great Society? was

falling apart. The thoughts that ran through Kings head at this time would make one consider

him a dangerous man. 1968 was a double nightmare with the double political assignation. On

April 3rd, Dr. King spoke to his audience at the pulpit in Memphis at the Mason Temple. The

night that followed, King was speaking to his followers on the balcony of the Lorraine motel

when he was gunned down by a rifle shot from the building across the street. The assassin

was a thirty nine-year-old man who succeeded in killing King. On the day of Kings death,

Mahalia was working with a friend, Jean Childers, on planning their chicken franchise

business. Shocked and saddened, people were left wondering, what next? This was not the

end. On June 4th, 1968, Senator Robert Kennedy was the next victim of being gunned down

by an assassin?s bullet. The country feared that an organized conspiracy existed. Mahalia

pulled herself together and once again went on broadcast on CBS television in memorial of

Robert Kennedy. (1) Mahalia realized her lonesomeness and had a healthy appreciation for

the male sex. She needed a companion and that was going to be her next project. While

singing for the church in Gary, Indiana, Mahalia met the Galloway family and immediately set

her eye on the husband, Sigmund. Although he had a wife and daughter at the time, his wife

died a few years later and his daughter left to live with an aunt. In 1964, Mahalia and

Sigmund were married in Mahalia?s living room. Again, this marriage did not last and

Sigmund claimed that Mahalia was too demanding, controlling and commanding and no man

would ever be able to please her! Mahalia moved out to a small place on Lake Shore and the

divorce was finalized in 1967. Mahalia got whatever she wanted. In the year that followed

the divorce, Mahalia?s excitement came when she received an invitation to perform in New

York?s Lincoln Center in a concert called ?Salute to Black Women.? (1) Mahalia first became

acquainted with Benjamin L. Hooks, as he was her preacher. Benjamin recalls that Mahalia

was battered and mistreated and she was so used to it that she had come to expect it. Many

times she had been deceived, tricked and duped out of money that she worked hard to earn.

She began to mistrust people and got to the point where she would demand payments before

the second half of the programs. He demanded only cash, due in her hand. (2) Back to

Mahalia?s plans with Jean Childer, they started the Mahalia Jackson Chicken System in

1967. During this time, there were no franchise companies in the south that supported the

idea of doing business with a black person. When Mahalia accepted their plan, the Hooker

brothers agreed to work with Ben Hooks and Watts on this project. At this point, Mahalia

was among the best known names in the black society. Six months later, the firm opened its

first store in Memphis and Mahalia made a triumph appearance. Hooks and Watts added

another company to their subsidiary, calling it the ?Mahalia Jackson Food System?. This

company produced over twenty-five varieties of foods, ranging from peas to beans and corn.

Working with the A&P Canning Company, millions of labels on cans of vegetable and fruits

were changed to bear Mahalia?s name and her picture on the front. A year after Mahalia’s

death, the company went bankrupt but had had many years of great success. (1) Although no

one was ever able to duplicate Mahalia?s style exactly, many certainly tried. She held onto

the notes for a longtime and changed the voice to a falsetto. Its been done before and

certainly copied a number of times but none were as successful as Mahalia. Mahalia would

forever have lifetime identification with the old-time Sanctified Baptist Church services.

Mahalia still refused to go into the secular world but there was no need since she was

making all of the money she needed. Mahalia never lowered her standards in terms of what

she believed in. People say that formal voice training could have ruined Mahalia since she

had such a unique style of her own. (5) By 1967, Mahalia had moved out of her small home to

a double condo where she lived with Brother John. She fired her life long black law firm in

Chicago and shocked everyone, informing them that she wanted all of her business

transferred over to Eugene Shapiro, a young Chicago lawyer. This was the same year the

Mahalia began to fight depression and her health began to be jeopardized. The stress of her

busy schedule was beginning to take its toll on her physically. (1) Mahalia?s life long dream

was to become a preacher in her own temple. When she arrived on the South Side of

Chicago, she immediately idolized Elder Lucy Smith. Although Smith could not read or write,

she had an incredible gift of persuasion. Mahalia loved Smith?s dynamic presumptions and

the public work she did for the poorer communities. As Mahalia aged, she overcame her

shyness and nothing held her back from approaching people, both black and white for

whatever she wanted. Although Mahalia saw success during her lifetime and much fame and

fortune came her way, but she never saw all of the fruit of her hard work. Mahalia had temple

plans of her own and she would not be settled until they were complete. She made a donation

to have her plans become a reality and that?s just what happened. She wanted to create a

monument to her brothers and sisters who had come both before her and would proceed her.

They, like herself had journeyed to the Promised Land. (5) On January 27, 1972, Mahalia

Jackson died of a heart seizure at the age of sixty. She had worked too hard and had burned

her heart out. Her death marked the eclipse of the gospel?s golden age. Mahalia?s works

possessed a magical elixir that most of her competitors had been denied. Funeral services

were held at the Arie Crown Theater. The coffin was then transported back to her home in

New Orleans. Following the traditional funeral services, the procession reformed at the

grave and then the joy began. Bands roared tones of gospel music. For them, they saw

Mahalia?s death as a step toward her long journey up the glory road. (4) Mahalias life had

been run by money. She had agreed that money changes people. Her friend, Brother John

warned her that she was living too high and must come down but her fortune was much too

important to her. Mahalia believed that people had the money she demanded and if they

didn?t, they would find it if they wanted to enjoy her services. She was wrestling with the

two Mahalia?s inside herself. The powerful, public one had fits of anger, ruthlessness and

times of unthinking. The other was extremely lonely and spending hours on the phone with

her ex husband. Inside she was a scared woman who was seeking a close companion. (3) In

June 1975, a film entitled ?Kinfolks? documented the life and music of Mahalia Jackson. Her

art was her work; her work was her art. (1)


DeVeaux, Scott. Birth of Bebop, The. Berkeley and Los Angeles, California: University of California Press, 1997

http://www.la.psu.edu/~jselzer/burke/hawk1.html 2/18/00

http://www.ponyexpress.net/~colehawkins/abouthawk.html 2/18/00

Kernfeld, Berry. New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, The. Vol. II London: The MacMillan Company, 1988

Sadie, Stanley. New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, The. Vol. II New York: The MacMillan Company, 1928


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