as a child, i was exposed to jazz and blues 78s and LPs. in the early 1970s, as a pagan teen, i heard my first Black Gospel hit, ‘O Happy Day’ by the Edwin Hawkins Singers. when i became a Christian, i was delighted to discover Black Gospel music. the artist most popular in the late 70s was Andre Crouch but in my listening voyage i discovered Mahalia Jackson, the queen of gospel music. her passion and delivery still send shivers up my spine…
hear that happy hand-clap black beat
makes me joyful shout, stomp my feet;
black song hopes clap-sing tonight,
washing dishes, God’s jazz sets me alight.
victory-tinged voice, poignant pain;
you refused to sing the blues for gain;
gospel Saviour, your shelter and rock;
you didn’t sit with them that mock.
poignant piano and trill organ backing,
your pathos punches, aptly packing;
you encourage us on, you don’t chide,
swing low sweet chariots, let me also ride.
good news singer, protesting ugly grief,
your gospel colours-in black-white belief;
O Mahalia! let it rip! let grave stones roll!
sing from over yonder to this sinner’s soul.
Mahalia Jackson (1911 – 1972) – one of the most influential gospel singers in the world and was heralded internationally as a singer and civil rights activist.