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Precious Lord - The Story Behind the SOng

Published February 24, 2017
Countries: USA
Age Levels: 12 and up

You may have heard of Tommy Dorsey - Oh not the big band leader but Thomas A. Dorsey – a black musician who tickled the ivories. That man could play the piano.

He was one of five children born into a family in rural Georgia. His daddy was a Baptist minister. His momma played the piano and organ at church. He had uncles who played the blues and who taught music. So, it was only natural that Thomas Dorsey learned how to play the piano at a young age. It was also natural for him to play religious music. However, by age 12 Thomas Dorsey was learning to play other styles of music. He began to leave school early and started to hang around the theaters and dance halls to hear boogey woogie and the blues. At that young age, he began to entertain at private parties and bordellos – not the kind of places that his earthly father or Heavenly Father would approve of.

By age 15 and 16, Thomas Dorsey was playing on a regular basis in clubs in Atlanta, Georgia. During his spare time, he studies piano and studied harmony to try and become a full-time professional musician. At seventeen, he moved to Philadelphia to try to further his career as a musician. His music took him to Chicago where he studies composing and arranging during the day and performed as Georgia Tom in Chicago jazz clubs at night.

At age 22, Dorsey’s uncle took him to a Baptist convention, where he gave his life to Jesus. He began to compose religious songs. The first of his songs brought him $5. He wanted to serve God, but continued to serve the wrong audiences at night to pay the bills. It was said by some that Dorsey even played in speakeasies owned by Al Capone. The strain of living a double life was hard. Thomas Dorsey suffered not one, but two, nervous breakdowns in his early twenties. But the love of a good woman that he married and the fellowship in a good church gave Dorsey hope. He began to work harder at writing Gospel music, and his reputation grew.

He began to travel and perform Gospel music for audiences on a wide basis. In 1932 he was in St. Louis for a program. It was a stormy night. His pregnant wife had taken ill, and phone messages could not get through. A man came on to the platform to hand him a telegram - his wife had just died in childbirth.

Dorsey drove home as fast as he could to be with his newborn son and to grieve his wife. Within 24 hours his newborn baby died also. One would not be wrong to compare Dorsey with Doubting Thomas from the Bible, for his faith had been tested to the maximum. A week after that spirit crushing, Thomas was sitting alone at a friend’s home. A peace that he had never known before came over him, and he felt the urge to play the piano. His fingers played, and his mouth sang the words to the song we now call Precious Lord, Take My Hand. 


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