Glorious Gospel

Mahalia Jackson

Mahalia Jackson (1911-1972) was a contralto gospel singer from New Orleans who recorded about 30 albums with Christian music, most of them for Columbia Records. Her music sold very well and was also widely played on Christian radio stations both in the US and abroad, and she was known as The Queen of Gospel.

Jackson is also renowned for her strong involvment in the civil rights movement, and singer Harry Belafonte called her “the single most powerful black woman in the United States”.

From early childhood, Jackson loved to sing, especially in church. She began her singing career in Mount Moriah Baptist Church. At age 12, she was baptized in the Mississippi River. Throughout her career, Jackson refused to sing secular music – despite strong pressure on her to do so.

“I sing God’s music because it makes me feel free”, she once explained her choice of gospel, adding, “It gives me hope. With the blues, when you finish, you still have the blues.”

Short facts

Name Mahalia Jackson
Nickname Halie
Birth October 26, 1911, in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA
Death January 27, 1972, in Evergreen Park, Illinois, USA
Occupation Singer
Genre Gospel
  • Decca Coral

  • Apollo

  • Columbia

  • Jackson was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 1978, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997, and the Lousiana Music Hall of Fame in 2008.
  • She got her star on Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1988.

Grammy Awards

Grammy Awards

Year Category Title
1961 Best Gospel or Other Religious Recording “Every Time I Feel the Spirit”
1962 Best Gospel Or Other Religious Recording  
1972 Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award  
1976 Best Soul Gospel Performance “How I Got Over”

Grammy Hall of Fame Award

Single Year inducted
“Move On Up a Little Higher” (recorded in 1947) 1998
“His Eye Is on the Sparrow”

(recorded in 1958)

“Precious Lord, Take My Hand” (recorded in 1956) 2012


Mahala Jackson was born in 1911 and grew up in New Orleans, in the neighborhood Black Pearl. She lived on Pitt Street, in three-room home on Pitt Street filled with a dozen family members and relatives, and a dog. Mahala’s mother Charity Clark worked as a maid and laundress, and her father John. A Jackson was a dockworker and barber. (He would later become a Baptist minister.)

When she was born, Mahala suffered from genu varum (bow-leggedness) and the doctors recommended surgery, but one of her aunts opposed it and the operation was never carried out. Instead, her mother would rub the legs with greasy dishwater.

Thank’s to her father’s sister Jeanette Jackson-Burnett, the young Mahala got a chance to listen to Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith and Mamie Smith records, and the young girl grew so fond of this music that she began imitating the bending and coloring of the notes. For the rest of her life, her singing style was frequently compared to that of Bessie Smith.

Mahala Jackson’s mother died young, at the age of 25, when Jackson was just four or five years old. From this point, Mahala and her brother were raised by her aunt Mahala Clark-Paul (Aunt Duke). She was a stern guardian who beat the children and forced themto work very hard in the home.

Columbia Records discography

  • You’ll Never Walk Alone (1952)
  • The World’s Greatest Gospel Singer (1955)
  • Sweet Little Jesus Boy (1955)
  • Bless This House (1956)
  • Gospels, Spirituals, & Hymns (1956)
  • Newport 1958 (1958)
  • Great Gettin’ Up Morning (1959)
  • Come On Children, Let’s Sing (1960)
  • The Power and the Glory (1960)
  • I Believe (1960)
  • Everytime I Feel the Spirit (1961)
  • Recorded Live in Europe During Her Latest Concert Tour (1962)
  • Great Songs of Love and Faith (1962)
  • Silent Night – Songs for Christmas (1962)
  • Make a Joyful Noise Unto the Lord (1963)
  • Let’s Pray Together (1963)
  • Mahalia (1966)
  • Garden of Prayer (1967)
  • My Faith (1967)
  • Mahalia Jackson in Concert – Easter Sunday, 1967 (1967)
  • A Mighty Fortress (1968)
  • Sings the Best-Loved Hymns of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1968)
  • Christmas with Mahalia (1968)
  • Mahalia Sings the Gospel Right Out of the Church (1969)
  • What the World Needs Now (1969)

Compilation records

  • Mahalia Jackson’s Greatest Hits (1963) Columbia
  • Mahalia Jackson Sings America’s Favorite Hymns (1971) Columbia
  • The Great Mahalia Jackson (1972) Columbia
  • Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen (1975) Vogue
  • The Best of Mahalia Jackson Hymns, Spirituals & Songs of Inspiration (1976) Columbia
  • Mahalia Jackson’s Greatest Hits (1988) Columbia
  • Silent Night – Gospel Christmas with Mahalia Jackson (1990) LaserLight Digital
  • Gospels, Spirituals & Hymns (1991, re-issued 1998) Columbia
  • Mahalia Jackson: The Apollo Sessions 1946–1951 (re-issued 1994) Pair
  • The Best of Mahalia Jackson (1995) Columbia
  • 16 Most Requested Songs (1996) Columbia
  • The Essential Mahalia Jackson (2004) Columbia
  • The Forgotten Recordings (2005) Acrobat