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Mahalia Jackson performs in Frankfurt, Germany, in April, 1961.
Mahalia Jackson performs in Frankfurt, Germany, in April, 1961. (Norm Zeisloft / ©S&S)

"I've been singing now for almost 40 years and most of the time I've been singing for my supper as well as for the Lord. I never had a music lesson and I still can't read music. I don't know anything about chord structures ... I just sing it."

But it's not the blues that Mahalia Jackson, a daughter of New Orleans, sings: "There's despair in the blues . . . I still need the hope and happiness God's music brings." Her big voice, which would be a perfect vehicle for the blues phrasing of a Bessie Smith, transcends all religious and language barriers. It has mesmerized millions into helping her build an evangelical temple in Chicago. For that's what she intends to do with the money she has earned from recitals in many lands and from the more than 8 million of her records purchased by fans the world over.

"The world's greatest gospel singer" has three more stops on her current European tour: Paris Tuesday night, Munich Thursday and Essen the following evening.

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