November 15

Mahalia Jackson’s “Move On Up a Little Higher” and Its Powerful Message

W. Herbert Brewster encouraged his people to move up a little higher. He wanted them to push themselves to their limit. Brewster believes that his people can do what other people can do. Therefore, for him to inspire them, he shared his message through music.

“Move On Up A Little Higher” By W. Herbert Brewster

Brewster fought for the civil rights of his people. He used music as a form of protest, but his music is not just simple and easy to recognize as a protest song. You have to listen well and dig deeper into each word. Brewster wrote his most famous composition “Move On Up A Little Higher” in 1946. The first recording of his song was by John Seller. However, nobody made it eminent than the “Queen of Gospel Music,” Mahalia Jackson.

Mahalia Jackson’s Recording

Jackson recorded Brewster’s song in 1948. Her career escalated when she released her recording of “Move On Up A Little Higher.”  Jackson’s powerful voice coupled with the song’s strong message for freedom made people want to have a copy of the recording. Since the release of her song, Jackson became famous inside and outside of the US. In 1998, her version of “Move On Up a Little Higher” received the Grammy Hall of Fame Award. In addition, RIAA listed “Move On Up a Little Higher” as one of the Songs of the Century.

Mahalia Jackson’s “Move On Up a Little Higher” and Its Powerful Message 1
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The Influential Message of the Song

“Move On Up a Little Higher” is a song that fights for freedom and civil rights, but confidentially. According to Anthony Heilbut, a gospel historian, Brewster’s song is

“A barely distinguished freedom song.”

It is only those who were afflicted by the injustice of civil rights that can understand Brewster’s single. His song was written during those times when society looked at black people as slaves, and are not entitled of any equal treatment. Aside from “Move On Up a Little Higher,” Brewster wrote other gospel songs such as “Surely, God Is Able,” “ Lord I’ve Tried,” “I’ll Go,” “I’m Climbing Higher and Higher,” and “Let Us Go Back to the Old Landmark.”


Mahalia Jackson, Move On Up a Little Higher, W. Herbert Brewster

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