Mahalia Jackson

Mahalia Jackson was arguably the best-known gospel singer, with a vocal style that combined the spirited highs of the churches in which she grew up with the expressive lows of her beloved blues. Born in New Orleans on October 16, 1911, a four-year-old Jackson found her voice in the choir stand at Plymouth Rock Baptist Church. She moved to Chicago in 1927, and it wasn't long before she had joined the city's church performance circuit, singing with The Johnson Brothers. She released her first solo album in 1937, and her 1948 recording of "Move on Up a Little Higher" became one of the biggest selling gospel song of all time, making her a star. Jackson recorded more than 30 albums and used her influence to advocate for civil rights. She went on to host a weekly national gospel radio show in 1954, appeared in Imitation of Life in 1959, sang at JFK's inauguration in 1961 and "Precious Lord, Take My Hand" at friend Martin Luther King Jr.'s funeral seven years later. She performed a farewell concert in Germany the year before her death on January 27, 1972.