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Thomas A. Dorsey
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Songwriter
    (July 1, 1899-January 23, 1993)
    Born in Villa Rica, Georgia
    Musical director of the Pilgrim Baptist Church in Chicago (1932-83)
    Called 'the father of black gospel music'
    Wrote the standards 'Take My Hand, Precious Lord' and 'Peace in the Valley'
    Featured in the documentary 'Say Amen, Somebody' (1983)
    He had two nervous breakdowns during the 1920s.
    He started as blues pianist Georgia Tom, performing at speakeasies and bordellos, and writing raunchy songs such as 'Tight Like That.'
    His injection of blues elements into church music to create gospel was resisted in more conservative quarters, leading him to note, 'I've been thrown out of some of the best churches in America.'
    He founded the first independent publisher of gospel music, the Dorsey House of Music, which was so successful that by the late 30s, the word 'dorsey' was applied to any gospel sheet music.
    He discovered Mahalia Jackson.
    He wrote 'Take My Hand, Precious Lord' after his wife died in childbirth followed two days later by his newborn son (1932).
    'Precious Lord' was a favorite hymn of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Lyndon B. Johnson, who both requested that it be sung at their funerals.

Credit: C. Fishel


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