I LIKE THE WAY YOU SING

Mahlia
Mahalia Jackson sings at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1957. Mary Lou Williams heard her there and said she felt "cold chills run up and down my spine.”

You see, back in the fifties when I came up, there weren’t a whole lot of Black Folks on television. And Mahalia, she lived right in my hometown, Chicago. She was born in Louisiana, the birthplace of jazz; she lived next to a Holiness church; and went to a Baptist church. So, she was getting all kinds of rhythms up in her head. Then she came to Chicago. She was attending a Baptist church. She started singing with a gospel choir and with a professional gospel group. After she made her first record, she got her own little local television show.

You know, in our house we had one little television for the whole house. It wasn’t a big one and it was black and white. When Mahalia came on, one of us would go out onto the porch and say, “Mahalia’s on T.V.” And everybody would run in and listen; because when Mahalia sang, you knew there was a God. She didn’t sing like she believed there was a God. She didn’t sing like she thought there was a God. She sang because she knew there was a God and you could feel it whenever she sang. And she lived right here in Chicago!

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