Many unfortunate events in one’s life are beautifully turned into inspiration by creative people including the musicians. They make use of their God-given talents to convert their sorrows or pains into a wonderful craft. One great example of which was the classic tune “Precious Lord, Take My Hand” or most commonly known as “Take My Hand, Precious Lord.” The legendary gospel musician Thomas Andrew Dorsey wrote the hymn in the early 1930s following a tragic event that struck his family. Yes, the song has a sad background and that was probably the darkest moment of Dorsey’s life. But with the help of God and the people He used as instruments, Dorsey was able to overcome his life’s storm and came out stronger than ever. Not only that, he left us such a great hymn that many people came to love and continue to sing up to the present. Before going into the poignant story behind the song, let’s listen to an amazing live singing of the hymn first.
The Sad Song Background
Thomas Andrew Dorsey was a fairly new husband in 1932. He and his wife Nettie are expecting their first baby at that time. On one hot afternoon in August, Dorsey was set to leave for St. Louis. He had to attend a large revival meeting in the said place where he will be featured as a soloist. Thinking of his wife’s condition, who may be giving birth at any time, Dorsey didn’t feel like going to the event. However, the thought of hundreds of people expecting his presence urged him to go in the end.
In the midst of the steaming ambiance of St. Louis where a huge crowd gathered, Dorsey was asked to sing repeatedly. When he finally had the chance to take a rest, a young messenger came running to him. The message on the Western Union telegram that the boy brought him shattered Dorsey’s world in an instant. Written on the yellow sheet was the heartbreaking statement: “Your wife just died.”
He rushed to his hometown and learned that his wife had given birth. It’s a mixture of emotions that engulfed him at that moment. He had a new child but his wife died without them exchanging any words. But that evening, the baby also passed away. Dorsey buried them together in the same casket. After that, the musician’s world fell apart. Somehow, he felt that God was unjust and didn’t want to write songs for Him anymore. But during Dorsey’s most down moment, God’s boundless love abound in his life. He never left his side and used other people to shower him His compassion. The Almighty has protected him until the storm he faced passes by.
The Writing of the Song
One day, Dorsey recalled an old pentatonic tune he learned from Sunday School back in his younger years. He arranged this and put his own words to it. Those words became the lyrics of the gospel song “Precious Lord, Take My Hand.” It then became the most famous among the many hymns he wrote. He gave it to his friend, Professor Frye, and the latter soon introduced it to the Ebenezer Baptist Church choir in Atlanta. Martin Luther King, Sr. who was the pastor at that time fell in love with the song immediately. It then became a favorite gospel tune of King.
Many gospel singers had recorded the song. Mahalia Jackson, The King of Rock and Roll Elvis Presley, and Tennessee Ernie Ford were among the country legends who performed the tune. Below is Elvis Presley’s rendition of “Precious Lord, Take My Hand,”
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Elvis Presley, Precious Lord Take My Hand, Thomas Andrew Dorsey