Precious Lord

Discussion in '2003 Archive' started by JDHoward, Jul 21, 2003.

  1. JDHoward

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    Apr 28, 2003
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    The true story of the hymn "Precious Lord"
    ( You might be surprised by the composer, I was.
    One never knows from another's profession whether they are a Christian or not. This is a sad, but true story. I looked up the song and sure enough, it WAS written by said composer. )
    Back in 1932 I was 32 years old and a fairly new husband. My wife, Nettie, and I were living in a little apartment on Chicago's Southside.
    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 good-bye, 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 discovered that in my anxiety at leaving,
    I had forgotten my music case. I wheeled around and headed back. I
    found Nettie sleeping peacefully. 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 heat, 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 clapping 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 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 injustice..
    I didn't want to serve Him any more or write gospel songs. I just wanted
    to go back to that jazz world I once knew so well. But then, as I
    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 listen more closely to Him. But still I was lost in grief.
    Everyone was kind to me, especially a friend, Professor Fry, who
    seemed to know what I needed. On the following Saturday evening he
    took me up to Malone'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 into 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,
    that day comes when He will take me and gently lead me home.
    -Tommy Dorsey
  2. dianetavegia

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    THIS Tommy Dorsey was a black man from Georgia.

    Tommy Dorsey was born just a couple of miles from my home, in my town.

    Buckner: And he played with his two index fingers. Two fingers! And that inspired me to play in front of anybody, I don't care how great a musician you are, I said, "hey if Tommy Dorsey can get away with playing with two fingers, I can use all ten of mine on the keyboard."
    Thomas Andrew Dorsey was born July, 1899 in Villa Rica, near Atlanta, Georgia, the son of a Baptist minister. His mother was an accomplished organist. He gained fame as show business piano player "Barrelhouse Tommy", then, later, "Georgia Tom." In l983, when Dorsey was 84, he talked about his blues fame and one of his big hits "How Can You Have the Blues?" sung by Kansas City Kitty.

    In l930, Dorsey returned to his religious roots and composed gospel tunes. Thelma Buckner says at first church members did not warm to his compositions.

    Buckner: The church people resented him because he was a blues musician and didn't for years want to accept his religious music and church people, you know, church people sometimes can be hard to get along with. We good church people have a hard time accepting things we're not used to and Tommy had a little problem for awhile, but he was persistent, he just kept on.

    Thomas Dorsey rehearsing "Take My Hand Precious Lord" with Mahalia Jackson.

    Dorsey's best known composition is "Take My Hand, Precious Lord." Late in life, he sang it at a national gospel convention. Inspiration for the song came from a family tragedy. Dorsey was on a national tour in l930 when he got a call from Chicago that his wife had died in childbirth.

    Buckner: The baby lived and he got there two days later to see the baby, and two days later the baby died, and Tommy was one torn up and distraught man. And he sat to the piano where he can somehow or another he can get some relief and started playing and singing, and it just came to him "precious Lord take my hand, lead me on, let me stand..."

    Blues and gospel music composer Thomas Dorsey died in l993 at age 94. His songs are a staple of Sunday morning services in thousands of American churches. There are many memorable performances of "Take My Hand Precious Lord" including one in 1968 by the late Marion Williams, just after the death of Martin Luther King, Jr.
  3. Dr. Bob

    Dr. Bob
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    Jun 30, 2000
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    Didn't think it was the band leader Tommy Dorsey, but good to keep 'em straight.

    Wonderful story!

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