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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Who wrote the song, "Precious Lord"?

Some people have thought that the famous band leader Tommy Dorsey wrote this song.  In reality however, it was Thomas Andrew Dorsey and he was the son of a Black revivalist preacher.  According to the book, Then Sings my Soul by Robert J. Morgan, Thomas A. Dorsey was born in a small town in Georgia in 1899.  When he was about eleven, the Dorsey's moved to Atlanta where Thomas was quickly enamoured with the blues and began playing piano at a vaudeville theatre.  Later the family moved to Chicago where he attended classes at the College of Composition and arranging.  Soon he was on stage under the name "Georgia Tom," playing barrel house piano in one of Al Capone's Chicago speakeasies and leading jazz bands. 

Thomas was converted at the National Baptist Convention in Chicago in 1921, and began writing gospel songs and trying to get them published.  It was discouraging at first.  He later said, "I borrowed five dollars and sent out 500 copies of my song, "If you see my Savior," to churches throughout the country...It was 3 years before I got a single order.  I felt like going back to the blues."  He didn't and gradually his reputation grew and his work became known.  In his life he wrote over a thousand  hymns and is remembered as the "Father of Gospel Music".  He is equally famous for the song, "Peace in the Valley".

The following is a wonderful story of how God can heal the broken hearted.


Back in 1932, I was a fairly new husband. My wife, Nettie and I were living in a little apartment on Chicago's south side. One hot August afternoon I had to go to St. Louis where I was to be the featured soloist at a large revival meeting. I didn't want to go. Nettie was in the last month of pregnancy with our first child. But a lot of people were expecting me in St. Louis . I kissed Nettie good-bye, clattered downstairs to our Model A and, in a fresh Lake Michigan breeze, chugged out of Chicago on Route 66.

However, outside the city, I discovered that in my anxiety at leaving, I had forgotten my music case. I wheeled around and headed back.

I found Nettie sleeping peacefully. I hesitated by her bed; something was strongly telling me to stay. But eager to get on my way, and not wanting to disturb Nettie, I shrugged off the feeling and quietly slipped out of the room with my music.

The next night, in the steaming St. Louis heat, the crowd called on me to sing again and again. When I finally sat down, a messenger boy ran up with a Western Union telegram. I ripped open the envelope. Pasted on the yellow sheet were the words: YOUR WIFE JUST DIED.

People were happily singing and clapping around me, but I could hardly keep from crying out. I rushed to a phone and called home. All I could hear on the other end was 'Nettie is dead. Nettie is dead.'

When I got back, I learned that Nettie had given birth to a boy. I swung between grief and joy. Yet that same night, the baby died. I buried Nettie and our little boy together, in the same casket. Then I fell apart.

For days I closeted myself. I felt that God had done me an injustice. I didn't want to serve Him anymore or write gospel songs. I just wanted to go back to that jazz world I once knew so well. But then, as I hunched alone in that dark apartment those first sad days, I thought back to the afternoon I went to St. Louis. Something kept telling me to stay with Nettie. Was that something God? Oh, if I had paid more attention to Him that day, I would have stayed and been with Nettie when she died.

From that moment on I vowed to listen more closely to Him. But still I was lost in grief. Everyone was kind to me, especially one friend. The following Saturday evening he took me up to Maloney's Poro College , a neighborhood music school. It was quiet; the late evening sun crept through the curtained windows.

I sat down at the piano, and my hands began to browse over the keys. Something happened to me then. I felt at peace. I felt as though I could reach out and touch God. I found myself playing a melody, once into my head they just seemed to fall into place: 'Precious Lord, take my hand, lead me on, let me stand, I am tired, I am weak, I am worn, through the storm, through the night, lead me on to the light, take my hand, precious Lord, lead me home.'

The Lord gave me these words and melody, He also healed my spirit. I learned that when we are in our deepest grief, when we feel farthest from God, this is when He is closest, and when we are most open to His restoring power.

And so I go on living for God willingly and joyfully, until that day comes when He will take me and gently lead me home..
-Tommy Dorsey-

If you are discouraged today, I hope this story and the following song will bring you great encouragement!

God loves you,


Precious Lord, take my hand.
Lead me on, let me stand.
I am tired, I am weak, and worn.
Through the storm, through the night,
Lead me on to the light.
Take my hand, precious Lord,
Lead me home.

When my way grows drear,
Precious Lord, lead me near,
When my life is almost gone.
Hear my cry, hear my call.
Hold my hand, lest I fall.
Take my hand, precious Lord,
Lead me home.

When the darkness appears
And the night draws near,
And the day is past and gone,
At the river I stand.
Guide my feet, hold my hand,
Take my hand, precious Lord,
Lead me home.

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