Mahalia Jackson

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Getty Images

Bill Duke brings his years of talent and experience to direct and executive produce The Mahalia Jackson Story, a music biopic chronicling the life of the woman who rose from her poverty and obscurity to become the world’s greatest gospel singer and a music icon and legend.

Getting her story to the screen has been a passion project of mine for many years,said Duke, who has more than 60 features, TV shows and TV movies to his credit.

The Mahalia Jackson Story  was written by Ruth L Ratny, based on Just Mahalia Baby,  Jackson’s seminal biography and augmented by personal stories revealed for the first time by her former accompanists, friends, relatives and pastors.

The full length feature film will feature some twenty of Mahalia’s classic songs, including Move on Up A Little Higher ,her first million seller and Thomas Dorsey’s Precious Lord,which Mahalia, as Dorsey’s song-plugger introduced in Detroit in 1940.  Precious Lord would become a favorite of Mahalia’s friend, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

When she sings How I Got Over,’ it helps us all to believe that we can get over, too, says Duke.

The Mahalia Jackson Story will be filmed in Chicago and is endorsed by Chicago’s civic and religious community.  Mahalia Jackson was a very active citizen of Chicago who along with Dr. Thomas Dorsey, Roberta Martin and Sallie Martin helped make the city the Gospel Music Capital of the World, said Mayor Rahm Emanuel in a letter of support for the film.   Chicago is considered the birthplace of gospel and its annual Gospel Music Festival is the largest in the world.

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