Mahalia Jackson - "16 Most Requested Songs" - Sony - 1996
Mahalia Jackson had to earn her status as the "The Queen of Gospel." From age 4 to age 60 she performed relentlessly in public, beginning as a church singer in the Plymouth Rock Baptist Church in New Orleans and ending after she collapsed following her last show in Munich. She spread God's word with her heavenly, soaring voice on over 30 albums as she took the gospel out of the church and brought it into the homes of millions.
Jackson fought for the ideals of the songs that she so beautifully sang. She was a prominent civil rights advocate who took part in the Mississippi Bus Boycott and sang at rallies. She was an energizing force to black New Orleanians who watched Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech, as it was her who implored King, who planned short remarks of the sufferings of African Americans, to not end his speech. "Tell them about your dream, Martin!" she shouted to King as he was about sit down. "Tell them about the dream!" The rest, as they say, was history.
The anthology set "16 Most Requested Songs," released in 1996, has the best and most identifiable songs of Jackson's long career. Much has been said and written about Jackson's voice -- here in New Orleans there's even a theater enshrined to it -- so I'll let King, her biggest influence, do the talking: "A voice like hers," he once said, "comes along once in a millennium."
Thank the Lord we were here to witness it.
- Chad Bower
Video: Mahalia Jackson - "How I Got Over" - Recorded after King's "I Have a Dream" speech.