Thomas Dorsey: The Kind of Person We Become by Tim Richards

by: Larry Davies | Sep 22, 2015

Tim Richards is a writer, pastor and friend. He began writing for his local newspaper more than twenty years ago and has written for multiple newspapers since, including the St. Louis Post Dispatch. His weekly column presently appears in papers throughout his home state of Missouri as well as in Colorado and North Carolina. You can email Tim at TimRichards1@juno.com

Thomas Dorsey was the son of a Baptist minister and a piano teacher. His life goal was to combine the passions of both parents. He studied music formally in his hometown of Chicago and eventually became a jazz musician and pianist frequently going by the name, “Georgia Tom.”

In the early 1920s he achieved a degree of fame for his incredible ability as a pianist as well as the way he could combine original music and suggestive lyrics. He played piano on the raunchy 1928 sensation, “Tight Like That” which sold an incredible seven million copies. He should not be confused with big band legend Tommy Dorsey, although the two shared the same name and were jazz musicians, they weren’t related.

God was working in Dorsey’s life during this time and he eventually decided to give up the suggestive music he had been producing and write gospel music. His life didn’t automatically improve; he reached a breaking point in 1932 when his wife Nettie died during childbirth. Two days later his infant son died as well.

Dealing with not only his incredible grief, but also in the grip of the Great Depression, Dorsey turned to God and wrote a song expressing both his struggle and deep faith.

Dorsey’s masterpiece, Precious Lord Take My Hand, throbs with raw emotion and strong faith. It was a desperate man’s cry for God’s help and it connected not only with God but with millions of others who were struggling.

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.

When my way grows drear, Precious Lord linger 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.

Dorsey’s emotional song has comforted and challenged millions since he wrote it. Many of us have had numerous occasions when God’s presence was all that got us through our most challenging moments.

Instead of becoming bitter during the crises he was going through, Dorsey clung to God and saw his faith get stronger. He reached out to God even though life at that moment seemed to make no sense. He expressed both his anguish and hope in his song’s heartfelt words.

During my own 55 years I’ve observed that everyone eventually deals with pain and loss. I’ve seen some become bitter as they focus on how unfair life can be, while others like Dorsey, reach out to God and become stronger. The way we respond is up to us, but our response during crises will determine the type of person we become.


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