Mahalia Jackson was a truly memorable gospel singer, one whose deeply spiritual and undeniably moving songs saw unprecedented crossover success. Her earth-shattering artistry and all-powerful voice made her a force among the secular greats, proving that an unshakable faith can spark just as many hits.
Videos by American Songwriter
Here are five magical live moments in honor of Jackson, who passed away on this day in 1972.
“Elijah Rock” (Live at the 1970 Newport Jazz Festival)
Live at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1970, Jackson serves up a hypnotic performance of the traditional spiritual, “Elijah Rock.” Eyes closed and swaying along, she pours herself into every word of the piano-driven performance.
“Give Me That Old Time Religion” (Live on The Ed Sullivan Show)
Jackson stuns on the Ed Sullivan Show with the traditional Gospel tune, “Give Me That Old Time Religion.” Again, putting all of herself into the song – clapping, smiling, and casting her powerful voice to the heavens – the performance becomes her worship.
“Summertime” (Live 1960)
Summertime and the livin’ is easy are words heard time and time again, taken from the classic Gershwin tune, “Summertime.” A song that has been covered or sampled by so many, no one sings “Summertime” quite like Jackson, who gives a unique blues spin to this slow-burning standard.
“Lord Don’t Move the Mountain”
When singing “Lord Don’t Move the Mountain,” Jackson is a force. Her deep, earthquaking vocals add desperation to the ominous, pleading tune. Her tone tells a story just as much as the lyrics she sings.
“Just a Closer Walk with Thee” (Live at the 1970 Newport Jazz Festival)
In another performance during the Newport Jazz Festival in 1970, Jackson pays tribute to the great Louis Armstrong with the song, “Just a Closer Walk with Thee.” After dabbing sweat from her brow, she goes into a powerhouse performance of the Gospel song. She is eventually joined onstage by Armstrong himself for a once-in-a-lifetime duet.
Photo by Lennart Steen/JP Jazz Archive/Getty Images