Mahalia Jackson Biography
Claim to Fame: Singer
DOB: October 26, 1911
Date of Death: January 27, 1972
Diabetes Type: unknown
Mahalia Jackson was born on October 26, 1911 in New Orleans, Louisiana. When she was born she suffered from bowed legs so doctors advised her to undergo surgery that would require her legs to be broken and reset. Jacksons aunt, whom she was named after and helped raise her, refused the surgery. While Jacksons condition was not corrected, it never prevented her from running around, dancing, and playing like a normal child. Jackson lost her mother at the age of five so her aunt resumed the responsibility of raising her and her brother, along with their cousins.
Jackson picked up the hobby of singing and inevitably fell in love with it. Since she rarely had time for it at home, most of her singing took place in church. She was baptized in the Mississippi River and began her singing career at Mount Mariah Baptist Church. At the age of sixteen, Jackson moved and was invited to join the Greater Salem Baptist Church Choir. She met composer Thomas A. Dorsey in 1929 who was then known as The Father of Gospel Music, and in the mid-1930s they began a fourteen-year relationship in which he gave her important musical advice and let her tour singing his songs.
In 1936 Jackson was married, but after only five years she divorced her husband because of his addiction to gambling and the pressure he put on her to sing secular music. In 1937 she recorded records under the label Decca Coral, but her numbers did not meet expectations and they ultimately let her go. In 1947, Jackson signed with the Apollo label and released her first single through them, titled Move on up A Little Higher. The success of the album threw Jackson into fame and success in the U.S. and in Europe, selling over eight million copies. Throughout the rest of the 1940s and early into the 1950s she released a number of hits.
In 1950, Jackson became the first gospel singer to perform at the Carnegie Hall. By 1952 she was known as the worlds greatest gospel singer while she was touring all over Europe. In 1954 she signed a new contract with Columbia Records and began a radio series on CBS. She sang at the inauguration of John F. Kennedy, in front of 250,000 people during the March on Washington, and also at the funeral of Martin Luther King Jr.
Throughout the 1960s and into the 1970s Jackson toured Europe, the Caribbean Islands, Asia, Japan, India, and performed for the President of Liberia. In 1971 she ended her career with a concert in Germany before returning home to Chicago and opening up a flower shop and beauty salon with the money she earned from her music career. On January 27, 1972 Mahalia Jackson died of complications from diabetes and heart failure. She will be remembered as one of the greatest gospel singers of the twentieth century.
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