**PLEASE READ THIS REVIEW WITH UNDERSTANDING FIRST**
Now, I'm Not Saying This Lifetime Movie About
The Late Great Mahalia Jackson Was, By Any Means, Terrible.
But, For Those Of Us Who Have Been Around For Awhile,
Who Have Studied Intensively & Know The Full Scope Of Mahalia Jackson's Story,
As Well As Understand Her Cultural Significance In The Context Of The Times
In Which She Lived...This Movie Is Thin & Hollow.
I'm just being honest and completely objective here.
It left out A LOT OF STUFF! Story, Achievements, Her Social Interactions, etc.
Her movie career, spanning 1957 to the early 70's....
The fact that she quietly spent her own money to support
the civil rights struggle and was instrumental in bringing Dr. King & others to Chicago in 1966,
to combat racism in the north as well as in the south.
That TELL 'EM 'BOUT THE DREAM moment was treated like a mundane
sound bite, compared to the real meat of what brought that moment into being.
Also, there was her pioneering TV appearances, and the fact that she had sincere
white allies & friends in respected entertainers and other pivotal movers and shakers of
the 1940's, 50's and 60's, like Dinah Shore, Mayor Daley of Chicago,
President Kennedy, President FDR, and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt,
composer Leonard Bernstein, and many others, who loved her talent,
opened doors for her, as well as put their own careers & reputations on the line
to make sure Mahalia was treated with respect, dignity,
and was able to get the large fees that her talent deserved.
Dinah Shore threatened to pull her presence and her show when southern sponsors
complained about having Mahalia on her show and for embracing her with warmth.
Frank Sinatra pulled some behind-the-scenes string too.
So did fellow black artists with clout of that era, like Nat King Cole, Harry Belafonte,
Ella Fitzgerald, Sammy Davis Jr., & Lena Horne.
When Mahalia Jackson died in early 1972, her estate, (music, film, apartment buildings &
other real estate ventures, etc.) was worth an estimated $4 to $8 million dollars...IN 1972 DOLLARS!
That is an astonishing feat for any black artist of that time...male or female.
Okay, I say all of that to say this....
This film serves as a portal / conduit for younger generations to DIG DEEPER now into
Mahalia Jackson's legacy, and the true essence of her singing & her profound message.
She did not sing out of vanity & pride, like a lot of singers do today.
Mahalia Jackson was a true & pure servant of the ALMIGHTY GOD!
Her voice, her life, was a living testimony to her GOD, and her music was a gift of deepest
communication and anointing! There is / was so much more to her than just a great singer,
who turned down huge monetary offers to sing blues & jazz for the then fledgling gospel genre.
The fIlm didn't even tell that part of her story....
The importantly fated & symbiotic relationship between her
and the legendary Thomas A. Dorsey (Father Of Gospel Music).
Mahalia demonstrated his new-style gospel songs for 10 years, ( from 1937 to 1947),
on great depression-era street corners and in churches all over Chicago and other big cities in America.
Sometimes, they were paid in food or in whatever coins people could afford.
This was when there WAS NO GOSPEL MUSIC INDUSTRY!
That expression of spirituals and hymnals was controversial in those days...
being considered too bouncy, rhythmic, and using chords affiliated wiith blues and jazz.
This is what caused not only Mahalia, but Dr. Dorsey, and other early gospel
pioneers like Lucie E. Campbell, Sallye Martin, Madame Willa Mae Ford Smith,
Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Clara Ward & Her Singers, Roberta Martin, Marion Williams
& on & on, to be kicked out of black churches and reviled for being too worldly & jazzy!
Y'all, this story....Mahalia's story as well as Gospel's story,
GOES DOWN DEEPER THAN THE SEA!
Danielle Brooks did her best, she is a good singer, and I sincerely believe
that she tried to embody the spirit of Mahalia Jackson and honor her.
But young people need to HEAR MAHALIA! **The Real Deal!**
Please listen to the vast wealth of material that Mahalia created from 1937 to 1969.
Then, you will hear and feel the TRUE MAGIC that was Mahalia Jackson.
The definitive biography (book-wise) on Mahalia Jackson is her friend & biographer,
Lorraine Gorreau's 1975 bio, "JUST MAHALIA BABY!"...Please check it out.
Two video documentaries, "Mahalia Jackson: The Power & The Glory" and
1974's "Mahalia Jackson: Give GOD The Glory" are both excellent reference tools.
Did y'all know that Mahalia also had a very successful cookbook back in the 60's,
called "Mahalia Jackson Cooks Soul"??? You can find it on Amazon.com in limited release.
She also briefly tried her hand at owning a chain of restuarants
(see Mahalia Jackson's GLORY FRIED CHICKEN),
and a line of canned foods sold in grocery stores, in the late 60's,
but things didn't pan out.
All-n-All, though the film was kind of shallow & missing a lot of key things,
even in the subject matter it attempted to share, I still give both
Robin Roberts & Damielle Brooks their props for making a
sincere offering to bring this iconic black woman's incredible story to life.
It will surely spark interest and dialogue amongst a new generation, who didn't even
know that she existed. For that, we can all be grateful.
The fact that the world still talks about her and can still feel the anointing
in her pure & simple, from-the-heart, gospel music, all these years after her death,
is a true testimony to her uniqueness and cultural signifigance.