Dr. Henry Jackson has enjoyed a long tenure in gospel music. Starting out in the industry decades ago, he never envisioned the heights that God would take him.
But two things he did know – God came first in his life and second was his love of the genre. Empowered by those certainties, Jackson went on to launch a recording career, work with many gospel legends, write several choir standards, sing on stages around the world and collaborate with top secular artists as well.
And he’s still on a roll. On July 30, he will release a new project entitled, “Good To Me,” which features his own compositions along with guest soloists and songs by L.A.-area writers such as Pastor Calvin Bernard Rhone, the Rev. Quincy Fielding Jr., and Brother Tony Wilkins.
“I am grateful to God that I am still around to be able to do what I am doing,” said Jackson, who currently serves as minister of music at Brookins-Kirkland Community AME Church.
“As a young adult, I really didn’t think my career would turn out as good as it has. I always loved music and gospel music was always in my heart and spirit. I wanted to make a career out of it, but I really didn’t know where God would take me,” he said.
Clearly, God has taken Jackson far. An accomplished musician, he began formal training at eight-years-old and later studied classical piano with a private teacher and then at the San Francisco Music and Arts Institute. As a young man, he wrote and produced many enduring numbers including “Help Us Master,” “He Didn’t Have to Do It,” and “I’m So Thankful.”
Those songs, which are part of his catalogue of 50+ compositions, have been recorded by Father Charles Hayes and the Cosmopolitan Church Choir of Chicago, Rev. Milton Brunson and the Thompson Community Singers, Gospel Music Workshop of America – Los Angeles Chapter, the Mississippi Mass Choir, and the Brookinaires Gospel Choir.
He also achieved considerable success in the 1970s with his ensemble, The Henry Jackson Company; as a member of the James Cleveland Singers and as a solo artist with projects produced by the Rev. D.J. Rogers and Gene Barge. During this period, Jackson developed professional relationships with a range of gospel stars.
“To be one of James Cleveland’s singers was one of my biggest highlights of my young life,” he recalled. “I was just overjoyed to be with the ‘King of Gospel.’ In fact, I never thought I could sing that well, but obviously, he thought so. He had me in his group and it just took off from there.”
Another memorable time for Jackson was serving 22 years as the accompanist for the great Cassietta George, who composed “Walk Around Heaven All Day.” His association with George led to working with Aretha Franklin in Detroit, Michigan.
“Aretha wanted Cassietta to be a part of her birthday musical and that’s when I got a chance to meet her and sit down and eat with her. That was a memorable moment to be with the ‘Queen of Soul.’ I have a picture with her that I will always cherish,” he said.
Over the years, Jackson has performed with other notables like Albertina Walker and The Caravans, Shirley Caesar, Andrè and Sandra Crouch, Edwin and Walter Hawkins, the Clara Ward Singers, Tramaine Hawkins, Rance Allen Group and Richard Smallwood. Also, his portfolio includes shows with Natalie Cole, Patti Labelle and Dionne Warwick.
As for advice to aspiring singers and musicians, Jackson recommended, “Always keep your eyes on the prize and that is Christ Jesus because the Lord has shown me that He may not come when you want Him, but He’s always on time and that is really, really true.
“I started this new project 10 years ago and Satan knocked me down, but not out. I just kept praying. I wrote a song called ‘In God’s Own Time’ and this new project is evidence that everything happens in God’s own time. You just have to wait on God,” noted Jackson.
“I kept looking towards heaven and God has brought me through. So, just keep looking and keep your faith in God and God will work things out!”
Dr. Henry Jackson’s new album, “Good To Me,” will be available July 30, on all digital platforms.