Mahalia Jackson

  • Year:
  • Inducted by:
    Mavis Staples
  • Category:
    Early Influences
Mahalia Jackson


Her voice hit audiences with the force of a hurricane.

Mahalia Jackson’s passionate contralto brought sensuality and forceful expression to gospel music. Born in New Orleans, she inherited the city’s legacy of musical excellence and passed it on for generations to come.

Hall of Fame Essay


David McGee

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.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony Program Cover 1997
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she sang for kings and queens and presidents.
Mavis Staples



Photography: Kevin Mazur, WireImage