With a voice that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said “comes along once in a millennium,” the legend that is Mahalia Jackson is celebrated in A Gospel Calling: Mahalia Jackson Sings, gracing DVD April 13 from Infinity Entertainment Group.
Born into poverty in 1911, Mahalia Jackson’s throaty, fervent, rich and distinctive New Orleans-tinged contralto took her from Louisiana’s Plymouth Rock Baptist Church choir (performing from age four) to an international reputation as gospel’s first lady and “the greatest voice of the century.”
Decades after her 1972 death, Mahalia remains the world’s most influential gospel singer, who performed for royalty, heads of state and presidents. Infusing gospel with a sensuality and notebending freedom never before seen, she sang at John F. Kennedy’s inauguration; and, at his request, prior to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s epochal “I Have a Dream” speech during the 1963 civil rights march on Washington, D.C. Rocking crowds from the Hollywood Bowl to Carnegie Hall and across Europe, she became a force in radio and TV, then mostly off-limits to African Americans.
Flooding her bluesy songs with soul and spirit, Mahalia always honored a pledge to never perform secular music. She recorded 35 albums and a dozen of her 45 rpm records sold over 1 million copies, going gold (platinum by today’s standards). Presented a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1972, Jackson’s powerful, force-of-nature voice was a clear influence on R&B and rock – including such icons as Little Richard – and she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997.
Available for the first time in this special, two-disc collector’s set is the complete collection of Mahalia Jackson Sings, 58 live short performances which aired on NBC in the early ’60s. Includes such hits as “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” “The Lord’s Prayer,” “Go Tell it on the Mountain,” “Throw Out the Lifeline,” “Down by the Riverside” and “When the Saints Go Marching in.”