Go tell it on the mountain, you’ve got a friend!
BY SANTI GABINO JR.
This Mother’s Day weekend, May 12-14, the Athens Theatre in DeLand will celebrate the lives of two iconic women! On Friday, the legendary sounds of singer-songwriter Carole King will be taking the stage, while on Sunday, the life and music of gospel pioneer Mahalia Jackson will be in the spotlight.
At 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 12, backed by a full, all-female band, professional Orlando-based piano entertainer Katie Pinder Brown plays and sings the iconic songs of Carole King that defined a generation.
Born and raised in New York City, Carole King started her musical career as a teenager, writing songs with her then-boyfriend Gerry Goffin. The pair found success early on, penning hits like “The Loco-Motion” and “One Fine Day” for other artists.
But it was her own album Tapestry that allowed King to truly make her mark. The record was a massive success, spending 15 weeks at the top of the Billboard charts and becoming the bestselling album by a female artist at that time. It remained a bestseller for more than 300 weeks.
Throughout the early 1970s, King released several other popular albums that achieved gold status, such as Music, Rhymes & Reasons, Fantasy and Wrap Around Joy.
The remarkable trajectory of King’s career was rewarded with several prestigious awards. In 1987, she was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and, two years later, she was formally recognized by the National Academy of Songwriters as a Lifetime Achievement Award recipient. Finally, after decades of meritorious service to the music industry, in 2021, King was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a performer.
As we celebrate Mother’s Day weekend and appreciate the women in our lives, take a moment to celebrate the incredible artist that is Carole King!
Switching gears, at 7 p.m. Mother’s Day, Sunday, May 14, the life and music of pioneering gospel singer Mahalia Jackson will take center stage.
In 1971, Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi declared after meeting Mahalia Jackson, “I will never hear a greater voice, I will never know a greater person.” This chance visit with Gandhi came about after Jackson’s concerts in Calcutta, 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. 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, she 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, Jackson sang for FDR’s presidential campaign. In 1947, she 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 JFK’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.
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.