Song of the Week: “Didn’t It Rain” by Mahalia Jackson

by Douglas Cowie on 22 September 2017

Each Friday I pick a song–new, old, borrowed, blue–that’s been on my mind and in my ears, and write a short post about it.

This is “Didn’t It Rain” by Mahalia Jackson:

I’m reading The Third Coast by Thomas Dyja at the moment. It’s an excellent cultural history of mid-twentieth Century Chicago. One of the many things I’ve particularly enjoyed learning about reading it is the friendship between Studs Terkel and Mahalia Jackson, and the ways in which they supported and stood up for one another.

A few weeks ago I posted a song featuring Mavis Staples, another great Chicago gospel singer, and one who both follows in a tradition that Mahalia both was part of and brought out into a more mainstream  light, but also expands or elaborates in different directions.

To give some sense of the expansiveness of that tradition, here’s Sister Rosetta Tharpe performing “Didn’t It Rain” in 1964, the same year as this Mahalia Jackson version. Here’s Aretha Franklin in 1985, and here’s Little Richard and Billy Preston, also in 1985. Finally, here’s a Louis Armstrong version from 1958.

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