Mahalia Jackson, the eternal teacher of American voices | Sound Sofa


In African American culture there are three key figures who shared initials. Michael Jackson, the king of pop, Michael Jordan, the king of heaven, and a woman, Mahalia Jackson, an artist who like the other two names brought happiness and joy to black Americans in one of the hardest moments in their history .

Mahalia Jackson He had a hard life, like that of most blacks raised in the southern United States during the years of the Great Depression, and like so many others he emigrated to Chicago and found shelter in the churches, the only place where they could express themselves, console themselves and enjoy the joys.

Throughout her long career, Mahalia became an icon, a powerful figure and a benchmark in her community and all those artists who grew up worshiping her, a list that goes from Billie Holiday to Irma Thomas to Aretha Franklin. Jackson’s figure is already far away in time and distance, but his music has not lost any of its strength.

This week we dedicate the Sound Sofa to remember his album live from the Newport Festival in 1957, an event that showed all the power and all the magic of the great black voice of the United States. For this musical journey they accompany us Mario Tornero and LucĂ­a Taboada.

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Aretha Franklin during the recording of Amazing Grace / Getty Images

The Brilliant Twilight of Billie Holiday

In the second half of the 1950s, Billie Holiday had hit rock bottom. Without money, prey to addictions and poor health, the great lady of jazz barely had a few years to live and a little voice. I do not need more. On February 19, 1958, Billie Holiday entered the Columbia studios in New York for the penultimate time. She crawled in, wrecked, and in just two days she registered her musical testament, the eternal Lady in Satin.


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When Aretha made her peace with God

There are records in the history of music that help you cope with breakups, there are others that they keep you company on lonely nightsSome cure hangovers and others inject you with the energy you need to get out of bed. Amazing Grace It is one of those very few eternal albums, the album that would have to be sent into space to send a message of peace to the galaxy, a way of telling the universe that we are not as psychopathic as it may seem.

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Irma Thomas and the Gift of the Stones

Every city has its saints, its patrons, its virgins. In New Orleans these figures are represented by musicians. In the delta city it can be argued whether Louis Armstrong reigned more or Profesor Longhair, if Dr John or Allen Toussaint had more weight, what nobody disputes is that the queen of the city is, was and will be Irma Thomas, who in 1964 recorded the wonderful Wish Someone Would Care.

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Duke Ellington and Newport’s historic standing ovation

When rock began to take its first steps in the mid-1950s, the United States saw an unexpected return, that of a teacher. Duke Ellington returned at 57 years to the first line of music after leaving behind the golden years of the big bands. Ellington revived against prognosis thanks to a live album at the Newport festival, one of the most legendary festivals in the United States, which then reached its second edition.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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