C.C. Rider the Venerator: Mahalia Jackson

This is the latest from The Bluesmobile’s C.C. Rider, who spends her life venerating the founding fathers of the blues. She’s walked the crooked highways of this singing country to resurrect the voices of the past. With the dirt of the Delta on her hands, she sleeps in the shadow of the giants on whose shoulders popular music now stands.

 

Mahalia Jackson

(October 26, 1911 – January 27, 1972)

“She has a once in a millennium voice.” That’s what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said about Mahalia Jackson. She and Dr. King were close friends. They marched and sang at many rallies, but the March on Washington was different.

Over a quarter million people converged on the Lincoln memorial on August 28, 1963. It was a day of collective voices. Of peaceful protest, and powerful song. Amidst the roar of the crowd, the musical line-up included Joan Baez, Marian Anderson, a 22-year-old Bob Dylan, and the great Mahalia Jackson. They all witnessed Dr. King give his most famous speech. After he’d spoken for some time, Mahalia Jackson called out from behind—“Tell them about the dream.” He put down the notes he’d written, and he did.

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