The release of this three and a half hour special on gospel singer Mahalia Jackson is vitally needed. As Jackson passed on in 1972, each year that passes ensures that that many more individuals never saw eir perform or otherwise were graced with eir skill. “A Gospel Calling” is a video that may be long for some, but should be required watching for anyone studying African-American or gospel history.
The fact that a large segment of the populace living today (at the best) only know Jackson’s name is stunning, considering that 14 of eir 45s sold over a million copies a piece. What the release is best at showing is Jackson’s tremendous vocal range, culling together a number of different performances that ey did for NBC back in the sixties. This means that there are rare recordings of “The Lord’s Prayer” and “Down by the Riverside” present, along with countless other short insights into one of the best gospel singers the world has ever experienced.
While the footage is in black and white, the sheer emotion that is conveyed every second by Jackson, eir voice ringing out as clear as day far outstrips even the most storied performers of the current period. I would like to see other documentaries and videos about Jackson released as we come to the 100th anniversary of eir birth, and hope that Infinity can tap those musicians, both in the R&B, rap, and rock traditions that would be able to inform viewers about exactly how much of an influence Jackson had on their experience as musicians. Kudos has to go to Infinity for creating a stellar release in “A Gospel Calling”.
A Gospel Calling: Mahalia Jackson Sings (DVD) / 2010 Infinity Entertainment Group / 208 Minutes / http://wwww.infinity-entertainmentgroup.com