February 23

“Take My Hand, Precious Lord”: Luther King’s Favorite

“Take My Hand, Precious Lord”: Luther King's Favorite 1

Jim Reeves/Amazon.com

Also known as Precious Lord, Take My Hand, “Take My Hand, Precious Lord” is a gospel song recorded by Jim Reeves. Known as the ‘father of black gospel music’, Rev. Thomas A. Dorsey wrote the lyrics of the song. This song was considered his shining moment in a career that spanned multiple decades.

Editor’s Note: Check out Another Sure Fire from Alabama: “(There’s A) Fire in the Night” for another interesting read!

Drawn and inspired extensively from the 1844 hymn tune, Maitland, the melody is credited to Dorsey. “Maitland” is often attributed to American composer George N. Allen (1812–1877), but the earliest known source (Plymouth Collection, 1855) shows that Allen was the author/adapter of the text “Must Jesus bear the cross alone,” not the composer of the tune. Whereas, the tune itself was printed without attribution for many years.

In addition, Dorsey wrote “Precious Lord” in response to his inconsolable bereavement at the death of his wife, Nettie Harper, in childbirth, and his infant son in August 1932.

“Take My Hand, Precious Lord” is published in more than 40 languages.

“Take My Hand, Precious Lord”: Luther King's Favorite 2

A favorite of Martin Luther King Jr.

“Take My Hand, Precious Lord” was Martin Luther King Jr.’s personal favorite. Oftentimes, he invited the Queen of Gospel Mahalia Jackson to sing it at civil rights rallies to inspire crowds. At his request, she sang it at his funeral in April 1968. King’s last words before his assassination was a request to play it at a mass he was due to attend that night. He is recorded as saying to jazz musician Ben Branch in Memphis just moments before his death.

“Ben, make sure you play ‘Take My Hand, Precious Lord’ in the meeting tonight. Play it real pretty,”

Furthermore, it was sung by Nina Simone at the Westbury Music Fair on April 7, 1968, three days after King’s assassination.

Other versions…

Other than that of Jim Reeves’ original recording, other famous singers made it also their own.

Soul and gospel singer Aretha Franklin sang it at Mahalia Jackson’s funeral in 1972. Moreover, Franklin also recorded a live version of the song for her album Amazing Grace (1972) as a medley with “You’ve Got a Friend”.  That evening was dedicated to him and recorded on the album ‘Nuff Said!. It was also performed by Ledisi in the movie and soundtrack for Selma in which Ledisi portrays Mahalia Jackson.

On the other hand, Opera singer Leontyne Price sang it at the state funeral of President Lyndon B. Johnson in January 1973.

Also, it was performed by Beyoncé at the 57th Annual Grammy Awards on February 8, 2015.

“Take My Hand, Precious Lord” was inducted into the Christian Music Hall of Fame in 2007. It was also included in the list of Songs of the Century, by the Recording Industry Association of America and the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2012, Mahalia Jackson’s recording of “Precious Lord, Take My Hand” was honored with the Grammy Hall of Fame Award.

Watch and listen to Jim Reeve’s “Take My Hand, Precious Lord”.

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Jim Reeves, Mahalia Jackson, Martin Luther King Jr, Precious Lord, Take My Hand

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