Thomas A. Dorsey
Thomas. A. Dorsey is known in gospel history as the “Father of Gospel Music.” Born on July 1, 1899 in Villa Rica, Georgia, Dorsey grew up in a strict religious family; his father a Baptist preacher and his mother, a church organist.
At a young age, he was drawn to music, learning the piano. His family would later move to Chicago, and his musical talents led him to the Chicago School of Composition and Arranging in 1920.
Playing piano, he fell in love with blues but was conflicted over writing secular music. He took a chance anyway and started playing in several speakeasies and bars, even adopting the name, “Georgia Tom.”
After experiencing catastrophic breakdowns that limited his playing, Dorsey decided to turn his whole attention on doing God’s work. But tragedy struck. In 1931, his first wife died in childbirth, along with his infant daughter. Through the pain of losing his family, he would write the famed gospel song “Take My Precious Hand Lord.”
A year later he co-founded the National Convention of Gospel Choirs and Choruses. He would also become the choir director of the Pilgrim Baptists Church in Chicago until his retirement in the 1970’s.
Writing over 1,000 compositions, Dorsey combined his love of blues and gospel to transform the genre.