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Giants Of Gospel Music - Thomas A. Dorsey

Updated on April 16, 2012

The Father Of Gospel Music

He was the originator of modern gospel music. He has penned the songs, “Precious Lord, Take My Hand”, and “Peace In The Valley”. The latter became a hit for country music singer Red Foley in 1951, that have become standards, and has been recorded by more of the music industry;s elite. And is the inspiration for gospel music artists as diverse as Mahalia Jackson, Elvis Presley, and Aretha Franklin.

Thomas Dorsey, the progenitor of modern gospel music first saw the light of day on July 1, 1899 in Villa Rica, Georgia. Born to a Baptist minister, and a piano playing mother. A formally trained musician, he was introduced to music as a young man and began his musical career playing rent parties under various names such as Barrelhouse Tom, Texas Tommy, and the more famous Georgia Tom.

In 1924, he formed a blues band called Wild Cat’s Jazz Band that featured singer Ma Rainey (1886-1939). Also during this period, he teamed with bottleneck blues guitarist Tampa Red (1904-1981), and in 1928, released the hit “Tight Like That”, which sold seven million copies. Dorsey is responsible for producing more than 400 jazz and blues songs.

Dorsey began recording what he termed gospel music, fusing Christian praise music with blues and jazz rhythms in the mid 1920’s. What set apart Dorsey;s gospel music from the religious music of the day was the focus on self, and the self’s relationship with God. In 1930, he performed at the National Baptist Convention, and during this time, became the band leader for two churches.

The inspiration for the song “Take My Hand, Precious Lord”, came in 1932, when his first wife and first son died during childbirth.

Mr. Dorsey’s many accomplishments include:

Member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity.

Agent for Paramount records.

Dorsey House of Music - The first Black Gospel music publishing company.

Founder and first President of The National Convention of Gospel Choirs and Choruses.

First African-American elected to the National Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Music Director at Pilgrim Baptist Church in Chicago from 1932 to late 1970’s.

Governor's Award For The Arts, Chicago 1985.

Grammy/National Trustees Award 1992.

Gospel Music Association’s Living Hall of Fame.

Gannett Records Hall of Fame in 2007.

Mr. Dorsey died in Chicago in 1993.

Please enjoy this mini-biography on Professor Dorsey.


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