Until 1946, Jackson used an assortment of pianists for recording and touring, choosing anyone who was convenient and free to go with her. As her career progressed, she found it necessary to have a pianist available at a moment’s notice, someone talented enough to improvise with her yet steeped in religious music. Jackson found this in Mildred Falls (1921—1974), who accompanied her for 25 years. Falls is often acknowledged as a significant part of Jackson’s sound and therefore her success.
Always on the lookout for new material, Jackson received 25 to 30 compositions a month for her consideration. Falls played these so Jackson could “catch the message of the song”. Once selections were made, Falls and Jackson memorized each composition though while touring with Jackson, Falls was required to improvise as Jackson never sang a song the same way twice, even from rehearsal to a performance hours or minutes later. Falls found it necessary to watch Jackson’s mannerisms and mouth instead of looking at the piano keys to keep up with her. At the beginning of a song, Falls might start in one key and receive hand signals from Jackson to change until Jackson felt the right key for the song in that moment. Falls remembered, “Mahalia waited until she heard exactly what was in her ear, and once she heard it, she went on about her business and she’d tear the house down.”
Despite working together for many years, the relationship between Mahalia and Mildred Falls eventually soured. This occurred when Mildred asked for a raise. At the time, Mahalia Jackson was making around $3,000 per night while only paying Mildred Falls $100 a week (about $52,000 a year in today’s money) to perform. Mahalia fired Mildred and the two never spoke again.
Final Resting Place:
Providence Memorial Park
8200 Airline Drive
Metairie, Louisiana, 70003
Grave Location:Mahalia Jackson Private Crypt
Grave Location Description
As you enter the cemetery the office will be on your right and you will take the first left turn. Drive to the end and Mahalia Jackson’s gated tomb is easy to see on your left just around the corner from the large mausoleum.
Grave Location GPS29.978077988057095, -90.22647647465132
Visiting The Grave:
Read More About Mahalia Jackson:
- Published Obituary
- Wikipedia Entry
- Official Website of Mahalia Jackson
- The eternal life of gospel singer Mahalia Jackson
- Mahalia Jackson: Voice Of The Civil Rights Movement
- Mahalia Jackson: Gospel Takes Flight
- Markers of Distinction: Mahalia Jackson
- Mildred Falls death: What happened to Mahalia Jackson's pianist?
- The Real Mahalia Jackson - Facts the Movie Left Out
- Mahalia Star Joaquina Kalukango on Portraying the Life of a Legend
- Organist With Heart and Soul
- Devastating last days of 'Queen of Gospel' plagued by ill-health