Got to Tell it

Got to Tell it : Mahalia Jackson, Queen of Gospel

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Description

Mahalia Jackson was one of the greatest gospel singers America has ever known, the woman who almost singlehandedly brought black gospel from the churches of Chicago into the public eye. In her pink, floor-length organza gown, her black beehive piled high atop her head, and her foot-stomping, hip-swaying style, Mahalia was gospel personified. And whether she was singing in a local church, performing at Harlem's Golden Gate, or appearing on The Dinah Shore Show, her spiritual bewitchery and monumental voice were sure to lift the souls of those listening into an astonishing state of grace. Now, Jules Schwerin, the producer of Mahalia Jackson's Grammy award-winning record for best gospel and soul in 1976 and the creator of a highly acclaimed film documentary on Mahalia, brings us a firsthand account of the Queen of Gospel, based on his interviews with Mahalia. We hear Mahalia as she remembers the local preacher who influenced her style: "There was a way that he would preach, would have a singing tone in his voice, that was sad. And it done something to me....It is the basic way that I sing." We follow Mahalia to Chicago, where her partnership with Thomas A. Dorsey (the Father of Gospel) brought her local fame, and where a young disc jockey named Studs Terkel invited her to appear on his radio program, successfully introducing her and gospel music to the airwaves. (As he recalls, "Watching her in a church...her relationship to the congregation was something to experience. You didn't forget the call-and-response, the give-and-take; she didn't sing with her voice alone, it's the body, the hands, the feet.") We hear her sing at the Montgomery, Alabama, boycott for Rosa Parks (the woman who had refused to move from the white section of a bus). We feel her performance of "I Been 'Buked and I Been Scorned" unite and uplift the thousands gathered at the Second March on Washington ("I reached out and touched a chord...lifted the rhythm to a gospel beat...and joy overflowed"). And we also encounter the other Mahalia, who became possessive and paranoid about her earnings and who fired her longtime companion and accompanist Mildred Falls when she asked for a much-deserved raise. Got To Tell It is the result of Schwerin's personal odyssey to reveal the Mahalia that he and those close to her came to know--a woman who could be at once warm and giving, and also cruel and unmerciful, but whose music would always bring joy and inspiration. Complete with a discography of Mahalia's recordings, here is an unforgettable portrait of the woman who brought gospel to the world.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 212 pages
  • 147.32 x 213.36 x 25.4mm | 430.91g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • frontispiece, 16 pp halftones
  • 0195071441
  • 9780195071443

Review quote

"This book offers an intriguing glimpse into the life of an important figure in African American history."--Library Journal"An affectionate yet relatively candid portrayal of New Orleans-born contralto Mahalia Jackson."--Publishers Weekly"A fine biography, and a valuable contribution to the too-sparse literature on gospel music."--Kirkus Reviewsshow more

About Jules Schwerin

About the Author Jules Schwerin is an independent filmmaker living in New York.show more

Review Text

Engaging biography of the great gospel singer who was the first to cross over to a large white audience. Schwerin was an independent filmmaker when, in 1955, he was dazzled by heating Mahalia Jackson and determined to do a documentary on her. He managed to befriend the notoriously headstrong singer, and she drove him around New Orleans in her lavender Cadillac showing him the scenes of her girlhood. Jackson, Schwerin tells us, was born in a shotgun shack in "back'a town," which spread along railroad tracks, the levee, and the Mississippi. As a child, she worked with her aunt for a white family, and by eighth grade was also putting in five hours a day as a laundress. Sundays, she sang in the Mount Moriah Baptist Church, whose congregation would often walk to the levee singing "Let's Go Down to the River Jordan." Determined to seek her fortune, the aspiring singer moved to Chicago, where her career was launched when Studs Terkel invited her to sing on his radio show. Jackson's childhood poverty caused her to accept only cash - she often left a concert with $5,000 pinned inside her brassiere - but it also seemed to affect her character adversely: She was so tightfisted, Schwerin says, that she fired her longtime accompanist, Mildred Fall, who asked for a raise to $300 a week at a time when Jackson was earning up to $7,000 a night. Schwerin provides a well-told background of the years of the civil-rights struggle and of Jackson's passionate involvement, which found its apogee at the second March on Washington, where she sang her signature "I Been 'Buked and I Been Scorned" right before Martin Luther King delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" speech. A fine biography, and a valuable contribution to the too-sparse literature on gospel music. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

Rating details

8 ratings
3 out of 5 stars
5 12% (1)
4 12% (1)
3 50% (4)
2 12% (1)
1 12% (1)
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