Jablonski, Marek (Michael)

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J.W. Work: ‘Plantation Meistersinger’, MQ, xxvii (1941), 97–106

J.D. Boyd: ‘Judge Jackson: Black Giant of White Spirituals’, Journal of American Folklore, lxxxiii (1970), 446–51

D.J. Dyen: The Role of Shape-Note Singing in the Musical Culture of Black Communities in Southeast Alabama (diss., U. of Illinois, 1977)

H. Willett: ‘Judge Jackson and The Colored Sacred Harp’, In the Spirit: Alabama’s Sacred Music Traditions (Montgomery, AL, 1995), 50–55


Jackson, Mahalia

(b New Orleans, 26 Oct 1911; d Chicago, 27 Jan 1972). American gospel singer. She grew up in the musically conservative context of the Baptist faith, but found the music of a nearby Holiness church more congenial. She was also inspired by the blues recordings of Bessie Smith, Mamie Smith and Ma Rainey, to which she listened secretly because blues were associated with the Devil by the members of her church. In 1927 she moved to Chicago, where she sang professionally first with the choir of the Greater Salem Baptist Church and from 1932 with the Johnson Gospel Singers, one of the first professional touring gospel groups. In the mid-1930s she began a 14-year association with Thomas A. Dorsey, touring with him to promote his songs. The success of her recording Move on up a little higher (1947), which sold more than a million copies, established her as the ‘Gospel Queen’. Her blues-inspired singing is shown particularly well in Let the power of the Holy Ghost fall on me (1949), which won the French Academy’s Grand Prix du Disque. In 1952 she toured Europe and by the mid-1950s had her own radio and television programmes in Chicago, appearing frequently on national shows. She sang at President John F. Kennedy’s inauguration in 1961. Although she was invited to appear in nightclubs and to perform secular music, she always rejected such offers. She did extend her scope, however, by making use of large choruses and string orchestras, and also made a recording of Duke Ellington’s Black, Brown and Beige with his orchestra (1958). Jackson was not the first, and possibly not the finest, African-American gospel singer, but it was largely through her compelling contralto voice and her personality that people of all races throughout the world came to respect gospel music as an idiom distinct from the classical African-American spiritual.

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