This is a story about the paths that God sets before our feet. As we trace the travels of our lives, we often see the fingerprints of God on the journey we’ve taken.
Thomas Andrew Dorsey was born in the rural community of Villa Rica, Georgia, in 1899. His father was a minister of the gospel and his mother was a music teacher—two paths that would intersect for Thomas later in life. The family was not wealthy. In fact, at age eleven, Thomas began selling concessions at an Atlanta theater to help his family make ends meet. Working at the theater allowed him to learn to play the piano, as his love for the medium of music continued to grow.
The story of Thomas is the story of all of us. We all come to the point in our lives where we decide whether to follow the compass or venture into the wilds and chase destruction. As he pursued music, the lifestyle of blues and jazz led him away from the Lord.
At age seventeen, he set out on his own, traveling and playing piano at any blues and jazz gig he could find. He wrote music with suggestive lyrics and seemed destined for success as popular blues singers began recording his works. He put together the Wildcats Jazz Band, which backed the popular blues singer Ma Rainey. He was now known as “Georgia Tom,” a new identity for a man who had wandered away from his Creator.
But at the height of his success, he began to notice an unsteadiness in his playing. It worsened to the point where he couldn’t play or perform. Doctors said he had suffered from a nervous breakdown; Thomas later called it a “God interruption.”
At his sister-in-law’s invitation, Thomas returned to church. As he reconnected with God, the unsteadiness ceased: Thomas was healed. Because of this, he committed himself to the Lord.
Thomas began writing songs for church, blending different styles and genres. While some didn’t accept his music initially, others connected to the sounds of the gospel for the first time. Thomas became known as the father of gospel music.
In 1932, he became the choir director at Chicago’s Pilgrim Baptist Church, where he would serve for forty years. This allowed him to work and focus on creating music. He also started Dorsey’s House—the first black publishing house for gospel music.
Thomas wrote hundreds of gospel songs that were recorded by such singers as Mahalia Jackson, Aretha Franklin, and Elvis Presley.
Thomas set the stage for contemporary Christian music, allowing musicians to use varying styles to spread the message of Jesus Christ. When he embraced the call of God on his life, the Creator of the universe used him to reach into the hearts of all who would listen through the vein of music.
To listen to Thomas A. Dorsey perform, "Take My Hand, Precious Lord," click here.
-Brian for Faith in Store