Mahalia Jackson died in Chicago on January 27, 1972 of heart failure and diabetes complications. Two cities paid tribute, Chicago and New Orleans. Beginning in Chicago, outside the Greater Salem Baptist Church, 50,000 people filed silently past her mahogany, glass-topped coffin in final tribute to the queen of gospel song. The next day, as many as could – 6,000 or more – filled every seat and stood along the walls of the city’s public concert hall, the Arie Crown Theater of McCormick Place, for a two-hour funeral service. . Aretha Franklin closed the Chicago rites with a moving rendition of “Precious Lord, Take My Hand”.
American Idol winner and Grammy Award-winning R&B singer Fantasia Barrino has been cast to play Mahalia Jackson in a biographical film about her life. The movie will be based on the 1993 book Got to Tell It: Mahalia Jackson, Queen of Gospel.
Mahalia Jackson Theatre of Performing Arts
A prominent namesake in her native New Orleans is the Mahalia Jackson Theater of the Performing Arts, which was remodeled and reopened on January 17, 2009, with a gala ceremony featuring Placido Domingo, Patricia Clarkson, and the New Orleans Opera directed by Robert Lyall.
Located in Louis Armstrong Park in New Orleans, Louisiana, the 2,100-seat Mahalia Jackson Theater first opened in January 1973 with a performance of Giuseppe Verdi’s Messa di Requiem starring New Orleans native Norman Treigle and the New Orleans Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Werner Torkanowsky
On June 25, 2009, Broadway Across America and Mayor Ray Nagin announced that touring shows would return to the theater for the 2009–10 season. Shows featured were Cats, The Color Purple, Mamma Mia!, Wicked, and Avenue Q.
The 2011–2012 season was announced on March 14, 2011. The Lion King, which was originally set to have its Louisiana debut at the Saenger Theatre in spring 2012, will now play at the Mahalia Jackson Theater.
Historian Noel Serrano stated: “God touched the vocal chords of this Great Woman and placed a special elixir to sing for His honor and Glory!”