Mahalia Jackson was fit as a fiddle and singing for change. Or then again so it appeared to be one ongoing evening, as I hung tight for the train on Chicago’s Jackson St. stage: “Jesus cherishes me…
… this I knew in 1967. Be that as it may, I didn’t know the melody. Actually, I didn’t know any tune, and this caused me a lot of disappointment. I had a go at singing, similar to I had seen the genuine Mahalia Jackson do on The Ed Sullivan Show. In any case, no words turned out. Just hogwash joined to my very own unconstrained tunes.
I didn’t have a clue what scat singing was. What’s more, I didn’t have an inkling what singing in tongues was. All anybody thought about my fanatical vocalizations was that, similar to an uproarious fowl too soon in the first part of the day, I couldn’t be hushed. “Calm down, presently!” my granddad would sometimes bark.
This was not the primary indication of my musicality. In the wake of seeing The Beatles, the Stones and The Doors on Ed Sullivan, I was given to collecting the paint jars in the carport around me and thumping them with sticks, as though they were Ringo Starr’s own one of a kind drum set. My granddad offered to get me a genuine drum unit. Be that as it may, the ladies (my mom and grandma) would have none of that!
Next came my affinity for choosing tunes on my grandma’s Wurlizter. She would play Easy Listening hits of the 60s, similar to “Moon River”, “Value” and “Something Stupid” out of a middle tune book. (But, in those days, they didn’t call it Easy Listening. They just called it Pop.) And when she was done, I would climb onto the tricky wooden seat – from which I would here and there slide off, arriving in a messiness on the pedals- – feet dangling, and rehash those tunes, in all respects gradually, from memory.
Sounds sweet, isn’t that so? Sounds like I was a little Mozart. In any case, that wasn’t the situation. A little Stockhausen, maybe.
Since I remained unaware of basic harmony structure (ternions, seventh harmonies and such), I would blend those songs with arbitrary note bunches. I was especially captivated by minor seconds- – two neighboring notes (e.g., a C and a C#). Some of the time I would play three, four or even an entire clench hand loaded with notes in the meantime, holding down those discordant groups until, a moment or so later, my grandma would step into the room from the kitchen with a blending spoon in her grasp, howling, “THAT IS ENOUGH!”
Next came the relentless scat singing. In the end, my mother sat me down. “Child,” she stated, “I need to show you a melody.” What she implied, obviously, was that, for everybody’s mental soundness, I expected to begin singing in a key, other than the Key of Me.
I can in any case feel the fervor I felt at that time. I would gain proficiency with a genuine melody; no more rubbish for me!
That melody was “Jesus Loves Me”. Whenever Mahalia Jackson showed up on TV, this time amid a Billy Graham campaign, I had the capacity to chime in.