Born on this day to a poor family in New Orleans, Louisiana, gospel legend Mahalia Jackson (1911–1972) sang in the choir of her father's Baptist church before moving to Chicago at age 16.
Called "the true queen of spiritual singers" by Little Richard, Jackson was dedicated to her craft and had the ability to touch others with the depth of her feelings. She once said: "Rock and Roll was stolen out of the sanctified church!"
Deeply religious, Jackson landed her first musical contract in 1935 and became Thomas Dorsey's vocalist and chief collaborator, recording the great spiritual, There Will Be Peace In the Valley with her passionate, distinctive contralto.
"God can make you anything you want to be, but you have to put everything in his hands," said the woman who recorded He's Got the Whole World in His Hands in 1958. Calling gospel the songs of hope, she said, "Anybody that sings the blues is in a deep pit, yelling for help."
Jackson played a prominent role in the Civil Rights movement. In 1963, before a crowd of 200,000 on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., she sang the inspirational tune I Been 'Buked and I Been Scorned just before Martin Luther King, Jr.'s remarkable I Have a Dream speech.
"Someday the sun is going to shine down on me in some faraway place," she said.
Cherish your independent heart.