CHICAGO–Gospel music has been apart of Chicagoan Andrew Jackson’s life for more than 50 years and on Friday, he was honored for being one of the city’s oldest gospel legends. The event took place at the Hyatt Regency for the First Church of Love and Faith‘s 35th Banquet for Archbishop Lucius Hall.
“I have known Andrew Jackson for many years,” said Hall, pastor of the church, 2140 W. 79th St. He wanted to honor Jackson for his work in the gospel arena. “He is one of the few gospel legends still around and I thought he was worthy to be recognized,” Hall said. The two have know each other for more than 50 years and Jackson has helped Hall with his choir since the church’s inception, 35 years ago. Jackson is currently one of the directors. He also has recorded six albums: Running for My Life, He Lifted Me, Getting It On With Jesus, Prayer Will Move It and Bless Them Anyway.
The vocalist got his career started early when his cousin, the late Mahalia Jackson let him travel with her. The American gospel singer is still referred by many as “The Queen of Gospel.” James had the opportunity to travel with those like gospel legend Albertina Walker, the Davis Sisters, Inez Andrews and the Rev. Dr. James Edward Cleveland, who was a Chicago gospel singer, musician, and composer. Jackson sang in his church’s choir and soon began to direct. That skill would come in handy later in his life.
He said that he loves gospel music, but he loves working with youth just as much. So when Chicago’s Department of Human Resources appointed him as youth director in the early 1960’s, he immediately organized a 800 plus person choir. Directing had always been his dream, he said, so he happily accepted the position.
The choir attracted vocalists of all ages throughout the city and from all nationalities, something he said was unheard of. His citywide choir became one of Chicago’s largest choirs.
“It was a beautiful thing to be able to bring those people together,” he said. A lot of people couldn’t understand it and said we would have problems, but I said we are not going to have any, and we didn’t, we didn’t have a single fight.”
His choir did more than just bring together singers. It crossed racial and ethnic boundaries.
“For a little Chinese boy to meet a little Black boy, well that was something different because many of those kids did not mingle with those outside of their communities,” Jackson said.
Hall said the choir was widely accepted and traveled everywhere.
“They were among the better choirs at that time and they were very outstanding, I featured them on my yearly program,” Hall said.
The choir would be divided during the week so that members could rehearse in smaller groups, but everyone would come together twice a month and practice as a full choir. They traveled across the country and even to Zimbabwe, Africa.
Jackson said he is glad that he was able to play a role in creating a peaceful environment despite the turmoil the city was experiencing in the 19060s.
“It really feels good to look back over the years and see that some of these young people have grown up into nice young men and women. I am proud that I was apart of their life and helped guide them to where they are today.”