Revered as one of the most important figures in American music, Mahlia Jackson is often referred to as the “Queen of Gospel,” a figure whose gravitas and formidable talents created the seeds for soul and R&B as musical genres and shaped the way Americans conceive and understand popular music.
Despite her gospel roots, Mahlia Jackson — who was a native of New Orleans alongside friend and jazz icon Louis Armstrong — transcended genre and became an international star collaborating with other supreme musicians. Once her 1947 hit “Move On Up a Little Higher” soared the charts and became the best-selling gospel single in history, she began garnering attention before performing on the Ed Sullivan Show at the age of 45. She continued her musical success before joining the political scene, singing at the request of her friend Dr. Martin Luther King at the March on Washington in 1963. She gave her final concert in 1971 in Germany before passing in 1972 at the age of 61.
Below, we can see a rare video of Jackson performing with Louis Armstrong at the Newport Jazz Festival in Rhode Island in 1970. They perform the gospel tune “Just a Closer Walk with Thee” before staying on for “When the Saints.”
More on Louis Armstrong soon. For now, enjoy this magical collaboration between two friends: