Hall of Fame Essay
Atop the gospel mountain, Mahalia Jackson’s stature is such that her neighboring titans (Thomas A. Dorsey excepted) are diminished by comparison.
Inspired by Bessie Smith’s haunted, brooding testifying, Jackson developed a muscular style that coupled the blues sensibility of a woman forever ’buked and scorned to a deeply held faith in a higher power she knew in her own fashion.
Indeed, being stubborn, contentious and not altogether a model of propriety herself, the God-fearing Jackson had good cause for coming on as an emotional firestorm, since this approach reflected her inner turmoil as she sought to stay the sacred course in an increasingly profane world.
she sang for kings and queens and presidents.
Photography: Kevin Mazur, WireImage
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