He was born in Georgia on July 1st, 1899. His father was a preacher and his mother taught piano so it was perhaps no surprise when young Thomas, or Tommy as he was known, learned to play the piano in his childhood. It wasn’t long, however, before he was displaying a preference for jazz and blues over the gospel songs his family loved. When Tommy’s talent at composing his own tunes began to bring him a good measure of early success, the young composer drifted away from the church altogether. He became an agent for Paramount Records and put together a band of his own called the “Wild Cats Jazz Band.”
Although Tommy Dorsey is credited with more than 400 blues and jazz songs, he couldn’t stay away from the gospel that had been seeded in him as a child. After surviving a couple of close calls in which he came close to death, Tommy came back to his roots in his mid-twenties and began recording gospel music along with his blues.
Tommy was thirty three years old when a telegram was handed to him in the middle of a revival service in St. Louis, Missouri. His wife had passed away during childbirth. His infant son died two days later. It was during that dark period of grief that Thomas A. Dorsey wrote his most famous song. “Precious Lord, Take My Hand” has since comforted untold numbers of believers and become one of the most famous gospel songs of all time.
Gospel Hall of Famer, Thomas A. Dorsey, passed away in 1993 at the age of ninety-four. He had written more than 250 gospel songs, among them the gospel standard he penned for Mahalia Jackson in 1937, “Peace in the Valley.” In today’s Southern Quote, we honor this legendary singer and composer whose music reached beyond his African American audience to touch the hearts of people around the globe. Thomas A. Dorsey once said, “I write for all of God’s people. All people are my people.”