Mildred Falls death: What happened to Mahalia Jackson’s pianist?

Eve Edwards

If you watched Robin Roberts Presents: Mahalia on Lifetime and are wondering what happened to her pianist Mildred Falls, we have answers.

The biopic explores the life of one of the most influential voices in the 20th century. Mahalia Jackson, born 26 October 1911, went on to shape gospel music over her forty-year career.

In Mahalia, we are also introduced to other important figures in the singer’s life. This includes her pianist, Mildred Falls.

Who was Mildred Falls?

Mildred Falls was Mahalia Jackson’s pianist. She accompanied her singing for over twenty years.

Despite working together for many years their relationship 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 to perform. Mahalia fired Mildred and the two never spoke again.

Mildred Falls: Death cause

American pianist Mildred Falls died in 1974. It is thought that Mildred died in Chicago, Illinois.

Mahalia had died two years earlier than Mildred, in 1972. She was estranged from Mahalia Jackson by the time of her death.

Her exact cause of death is unknown.

Mildred Falls in Lifetime’s Mahalia

In Mahalia, Mildred is portrayed by Tony-nominated actress Joaquina Kalukango. Joaquina was nominated for a Tony for her role in Slave Play.

You may also recognise her as Betty Shabazz in One Night in Miami.

Speaking about portraying Mildred in the movie, Joaquina Kalukango said: “So much of Mahalia’s sound is Mildred; they had a beautiful connection with each other. I also felt such sympathy for Mildred, because we always look at the star and never the people who got them there. To be able to pay homage to this woman her and to give her some light was just an honor.”