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Mahalia Jackson

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Mahalia Jackson was born on October 26, 1911 in New Orleans, Louisiana. When she was born she suffered from bowed legs so doctors advised her to undergo surgery that would require her legs to be broken and reset. Jacksons aunt, whom she was named after and helped raise her, refused the surgery. While Jacksons condition was not corrected, it never prevented her from running around, dancing, and playing like a normal child. Jackson lost her mother at the age of five so her aunt resumed the responsibility of raising her and her brother, along with their cousins.

Jackson picked up the hobby of singing and inevitably fell in love with it. Since she rarely had time for it at home, most of her singing took place in church. She was baptized in the Mississippi River and began her singing career at Mount Mariah Baptist Church. At the age of sixteen, Jackson moved and was invited to join the Greater Salem Baptist Church Choir. She met composer Thomas A. Dorsey in 1929 who was then known as The Father of Gospel Music, and in the mid-1930s they began a fourteen-year relationship in which he gave her important musical advice and let her tour singing his songs.

In 1936 Jackson was married, but after only five years she divorced her husband because of his addiction to gambling and the pressure he put on her to sing secular music. In 1937 she recorded records under the label Decca Coral, but her numbers did not meet expectations and they ultimately let her go. In 1947, Jackson signed with the Apollo label and released her first single through them, titled Move on up A Little Higher. The success of the album threw Jackson into fame and success in the U.S. and in Europe, selling over eight million copies. Throughout the rest of the 1940s and early into the 1950s she released a number of hits.

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ON THIS DAY: Gospel Singer Mahalia Jackson Passes Away  was originally published on