Wanted Wednesday: A Voice Like Mahalia

I haven’t posted in a while, so, to ring in the return to ye ole blog, I’ve combined a long promised music post with a Wanted Wednesday.

This week, need I say more than the following two words?

Mahalia Jackson

You can not say the name without instantly developing a Southern accent… and for Mahalia, I bear my suppressed drawl proudly.

Maybe the pride comes from the irrational kinship I feel to her because she started singing at Mt. Moriah Baptist Church.  No, I believe it’s the admiration for a talented soul who didn’t start off life with much of a fair shake but used her voice to express a joy that can only be brought on by faith in the Man Upstairs. It’s for a woman who refused to use her voice to sing secular music and even divorced her husband because of the pressure he put on her to do so… that, and his pesky gambling problem.

I’m not exactly sure when I bought my Mahalia Jackson CD. I didn’t know what I got myself into. It may have been a Starbucks counter impulse buy but I vaguely recall it being recommended in O magazine or Time. Regardless, this woman’s voice made me hold my breath with the first note of In The Upper Room.


How did I not know who she was?

As per my usual, I don’t much discriminate when it comes to music and intriguing cover art and the misty possible memory of a mention somewhere sometime and I’ll want to buy. Thank goodness none of my usual impulse-control buddies happened to be around because to say this purchase was worth it is a ridiculous understatement.  I may actually wear a rut into this CD.

I can’t describe her voice, I don’t have the words. I am convinced, however, that even if you aren’t a believer of the God Mahalia sings of, you may feel differently after you take a little listen…

One of my favorites, Down By the Riverside

Or the duet, Steal Away, with Nat King Cole

Or His Eye is On the Sparrow

And if you have some time on your hands, or need some serious saving, click HERE for a playlist care of YouTube that’ll make you want to shout out an Amen or two.

I don’t pretend to know much about Mahalia, I’m still discovering the subtle perfection of her music, and I know little more about gospel music. What I do know is, I want a voice (and the passion that goes along with it) to sing like the real Ms. Jackson.


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