If I had a “Greatest American Birthdays” series, I’d certainly have to include Mahalia Jackson, who must be counted as one of the most remarkable performers of the 20th century. She was probably best remembered for her renditions of “We Shall Overcome,” but her performance of “I Been ‘Buked and I Been Scorned” — which she sang just prior to MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech — was at least as powerful and has been unjustly left behind by popular memory of the civil rights era.
Unfortunately, I can’t find any film of that performance online, but I did manage to turn up this fantastic clip from a 1969 concert in Sweden. Most of that concert appears to be on YouTube, so if you’re in the mood to be completely blown away, do yourself a favor and watch.
If she hadn’t died too young in 1972, she’d have turned 96 today (which still would have been too soon to lose a voice like hers).