Dr. Shirmeka NeCole performs as Mahalia Jackson Nov. 11

BY SANTI GABINO JR.

Like a weekend spent sifting through your classic vinyl collection and selecting different albums to fit your mood, the Athens Theatre in DeLand has you covered Friday, Nov. 11, and Saturday, Nov. 12. On Friday, the life and music of gospel-music pioneer Mahalia Jackson will be taking the stage; on Saturday, the music of Southern rock favorites Creedence Clearwater Revival and the band’s lead singer John Fogerty will be in the spotlight.

In 1971, then-Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi declared after meeting Mahalia Jackson, “I will never hear a greater voice, I will never know a greater person.”

Mahalia Jackson

Jackson was the first singer since the end of World War II to give a concert for the Japanese imperial family. The chance visit with the Indian prime minister came about after her concerts in Kolkata, Madras, Mumbai and New Delhi sold out in under two hours.

Jackson’s early life, however, was far less glamorous, and her rise to fame was an arduous and difficult journey.

Born into extreme poverty in New Orleans in 1911, Jackson was the granddaughter of enslaved people on both her paternal and maternal sides. After losing her mother at age 5, she was forced to leave school just a few years later, at age 10. To help her family pay bills, she took on jobs scrubbing floors, doing laundry, making moss-filled mattresses, and building cane chairs.

Already possessing a larger-than-life voice, Jackson joined the junior choir at her church at the age of 12. A couple of years later, a move to Chicago got her singing at private funerals and political rallies. In 1932, she sang for Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s presidential campaign.

In 1947, Mahalia truly hit her stride, when “Move on Up a Little Higher” sold more than 2 million copies, rising to the No. 2 slot on the Billboard charts. Both achievements were unheard of firsts for gospel music.

After garnering worldwide attention, Mahalia became a regular fixture on talk and radio shows, and ultimately sang the national anthem at John F. Kennedy’s inaugural ball in 1961.

Although her life was filled with monumental accomplishments, it was never without its share of struggle and strife. True to its title, How I Got Over: The Mahalia Jackson Musical, produced by Lavarious Slaughter Studios and starring Dr. Shirmeka NeCole, brilliantly portrays the life of this powerhouse gospel singer, the likes of which we may never see again. Don’t miss this one-night-only performance at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 11.

Musical harmony coexisting alongside conflicts of another variety will also be in the spotlight Saturday, Nov. 12, when “Hey Tonight: A Musical Tribute to CCR and Fogerty” takes the stage.

Hey Tonight band member Mike Slute performs.

With such easily recognizable hits as “Lookin’ Out My Back Door,” “Bad Moon Rising,” “Have You Ever Seen The Rain?” “Born on the Bayou” and “Fortunate Son,” the melodious compatibility coming through the speakers was very different from what was going on in the recording studio.

From 1968 to 1972, the success on the pop charts of Bay Area natives Creedence Clearwater Revival was undeniable. Brothers John and Tom Fogerty, along with a couple of John’s high-school classmates, created some of the era’s most iconic and memorable hits. The band became known for having the “Midas Touch,” as virtually every song they cranked out turned (quite literally) to record gold.

However, turmoil was afoot and, in 1971, Tom Fogerty left CCR.  The remaining three members released their final album Mardi Gras in 1972. Sadly, at the time of Tom’s death in 1990, he and his brother, John, were still estranged. While sibling rivalry is not uncommon in most families, rock and roll or otherwise, it was sad to see the turn of events that the Fogerty brothers and CCR experienced.

Thankfully, “Hey Tonight” allows us to relive that golden Camelot moment that CCR experienced during their brief four-year existence. For those who wished they’d had the opportunity to see CCR and John Fogerty perform at the apex of their careers, this concert at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 12, is sure to “Put a Spell on You!”

For How I Got Over: The Mahalia Jackson Musical, tickets cost $32 for preferred reserved seating (first six rows orchestra, and two rows center balcony); $27 for general reserved seating; $25 for senior citizens; $12 for students/children; and $23 per person for groups of eight or more. A $4-per-ticket processing charge and 6.5-percent sales tax will be added to each purchase.

For “Hey Tonight: A Musical Tribute to CCR and Fogerty,” tickets cost $35 for preferred reserved seating (first six rows orchestra, and two rows center balcony), and $30 for general reserved seating. A $4-per-ticket processing charge and 6.5-percent sales tax will be added to each purchase.

For either show, make it a night out with friends and consider purchasing our special VIP box seats!

All tickets are available online at the Athens Theatre website (www.AthensDeLand.com), or by calling the box office at 386-736-1500. Box-office hours are 1-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, and 1 1/2 hours before live performances.

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