Wanted to close the week out with a shout of my own. So I went looking for a music video.
You can never go wrong with Mahalia Jackson.
I chose the video of Mahalia Jackson singing “How I Got Over” because despite its horribly poor quality Mahalia Jackson’s powerful presence and powerful talent as a singer shine through regardless. This is a favorite because you can witness the transformation in Mahalia Jackson as she moves along in the song. Did I say “transformation”? Change that. Watch the performance closely and you can almost pinpoint the moment when the Spirit…the Anointing…heck, the Holy Ghost (as we say in the Pentecostal church) falls and Mahalia Jackson “The Queen of Gospel” loses herself in the song.
Back in the day when black people placed little stock in finding happiness and justice in this life and looked forward to a place called Heaven where a displaced people could meet their Maker and find rest for their weary souls songs like “How I Got Over,” “I’m Going Up Yonder,” “When The Saints Go Marching In,” and “The Unclouded Day” elicited shouts and provoked benchwalking during church services.
Mildred Falls, Jackson’s longtime accompanist, is at the piano providing Jackson with sure footing each step of the way. The fact that the audience is mixed probably explains why Jackson tries to remain in control for as long as she does. But, as you can see for yourself, the shouts and expressions of the few blacks in the audience who recognize the Spirit when it falls is all Mahalia Jackson needs to let it rip. The mood of the song changes, in my opinion, somewhere around the four minute mark. But it will take another full minute before Jackson ceases to sing with her eyes close. Eventually she looks up at her audience, both seeing them and not seeing them. The nervousness is gone. Mahalia Jackson moves from singing and performing to testifying and praising the Lord. The singer merges with the artist who gives way to the Gift.
When the Spirit is done, Mildred Falls’ consummate accompaniment on the piano provides Mahalia Jackson with the musical footing she needs to find her way back to herself and to bring the song to a close.
After a bittersweet week of dialogue here on Something Within, let’s end with Mahalia Jackson’s powerful rendition of “How I Got Over,” (which, by the way, was written by another legendary gospel singer, Clara Ward).
(Pssst. Don’t let the video’s spotty poor quality here and there make you give up and click away. It’s worth sticking with to the end. We have take the footage the way we find it when we’re trying to experience some of these classic performances from the past.)