Mahalia Jackson is widely considered the best and most influential gospel vocalist in history. She grew up in the Carrollton neighborhood of Uptown New Orleans in a three-room dwelling that housed thirteen people, beginning her singing career as a young girl at Mt. Moriah Baptist Church. At the age of sixteen, she moved to Chicago and began touring with the Johnson Gospel Singers, an early professional gospel group.
Jackson worked with the composer Thomas A. Dorsey for many years, and Dorsey’s “Take My Hand, Precious Lord” became her signature song. In 1948, she recorded the William Herbert Brewster song “Move On Up A Little Higher,” which propelled her to fame in America and Europe.
She was the first gospel singer to perform at New York’s Carnegie Hall (1952) and the first to perform at the Newport Jazz Festival (1958). She sang at President Kennedy’s inauguration in 1961, at the March on Washington in 1963, and at the funeral of her friend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Mahalia Jackson died in Chicago in 1972, and was honored with the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award that same year. In the years since her death, she has been inducted into both the Gospel Music Association’s Gospel Music Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and she was the first gospel artist to be inducted onto the Hollywood Walk of Fame.