The Story Behind Precious Lord, Take My Hand
Thomas Andrew Dorsey was born in Georgia in 1899, the son of a nomadic minister. He was an American musician, composer, and Christian evangelist influential in the development of early blues and 20th-century gospel music. He penned 3,000 songs, a third of them gospel, including "Take My Hand, Precious Lord" and "Peace in the Valley". Recordings of these sold millions of copies in both gospel and secular markets in the 20th century.
According to Wikipedia, Gospel historian Horace Boyer writes that gospel music "has no more imposing figure" than Thomas Dorsey, and the Cambridge Companion to Blues and Gospel Music states that he "defined" the genre. Folklorist Alan Lomax claims that Dorsey "literally invented gospel". In Living Blues, Jim O'Neal compares Dorsey in gospel to W. C. Handy, who was the first and most influential blues composer, "with the notable difference that Dorsey developed his tradition from within, rather than 'discovering' it from an outsider's vantage point". Although he was not the first to join elements of the blues to religious music, he earned the honorific "Father of Gospel Music", according to gospel singer and historian Bernice Johnson Reagon, for his "aggressive campaign for its use as worship songs in black Protestant churches"
Thomas Dorsey's "Precious Lord" has been described as "the greatest gospel song of all time." People around the world love it because of its heartfelt theme of faith and hope. Written in 1932, it continues to attract new generations of audiences. Various artists from gospel legend Mahalia Jackson to rock 'n' roll king Elvis Presley have performed it.
Like so many grand hymns of faith, the song was inspired by a tragedy in the life of its composer. Dorsey believed his songs "lifted people out of the muck and mire of poverty and gave them … hope."
Our Favorite Performance of "Precious Lord, Take My Hand"