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Mahalia Jackson

Biography

Born: October 16, 1911; New Orleans, LA   Died: January 27, 1972; Evergreen Park, IL  
General critical consensus holds Mahalia Jackson as the greatest gospel singer ever to live; a major crossover success whose popularity extended across racial divides, she was gospel's first superstar, and even decades after her death remains for many listeners a defining symbol of the music's transcendent power. With her singularly expressive contralto, Jackson continues to inspire the generations of vocalists which follow in her wake; among the Read more first spiritual perfomers to introduce elements of blues into her music, she infused gospel with a sensuality and freedom it had never before experienced, and her artistry rewrote the rules forever. By the time she reached her mid-teens, Jackson's unique vocal style was already fully formed, combining the full-throated tones and propulsive rhythms of the sanctified church and the deep expressiveness of the blues with the note-bending phrasing of her Baptist upbringing. Her provocative performing style -- influenced by the Southern sanctified style of keeping time with the body and distinguished by jerks and steps for physical emphasis -- enraged many of the more conservative Northern preachers, but few could deny her fierce talent, and she was famous in churches throughout the country for not only her inimitable voice but also her flirtatious stage presence and spiritual intensity. Read less

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