Sunday, October 11, 2009

Who Wrote the Song "Precious Lord"?

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 goodbye, 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 disco
vered that in my anxiety at leaving, I had forgotten my music case. I wheeled around and headed back.

I found Nettie sleeping peace
fully. 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 he
at, 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 cl
apping 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 injustic
e. I didn't want to serve Him anymore or write gospel songs I just wanted to go back to that j azz 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 list
en 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 in 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 H
e will take me and gently lead me home.

-Thomas Dorsey

Thomas Andrew Dorsey was born in Villa Rica, Georgia, on 1 July 1899. He was a blues bandleader for singers including Ma Rainey, but after becoming a Christian he turned to writing gospel music, reportedly after undergoing a spiritual experience while hearing the hymn "I Do, Don't You?" at a Baptist convention. Across the course of his lifetime he penned more than a thousand gospel hymns, including "Say Amen," "Somebody," "Take My Hand" and "Peace in the Valley." He died in Chicago on 23 January 1993 of complications arising from Alzheimer's disease.

It is to be expected folks would confuse two musicians of the same name who were present on the music scene at approximately the same time. (Thomas A. Dorsey and Tommy Dorsey)
Beyond the difference in their genres of music, here's another way to tell the them apart: Tommy Dorsey the jazz musician of many popular hits was Caucasian, while Tommy A. Dorsey of gospel fame was African-American.

1 comment:

GrandmaK said...

This was wonderful. Brought me to tears...I ask myself, "How well do I listen?" Have a grand day!!! Cathy

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