January 23

Thomas A. Dorsey

January 23, 1993 - Villa Rica

“Take My Hand, Precious Lord,” one of the most famous gospel songs ever written, was inspired by the personal tragedy of its author.

Thomas Dorsey was born in Villa Rica in 1899 and grew up listening to shape-note singing and spirituals in church. He was also influenced by blues icons Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith. Moving to Chicago in 1916, Dorsey began composing sacred music fused with the blues–and gospel blues music took off. While publishing gospel music he continued his blues career and collaborated with Fellow Georgian Tampa Red Whittaker and other blues legends.

Over two days in 1932, everything changed–Dorsey’s wife and son died in childbirth, a tragedy that inspired Dorsey to renounce the blues and write his famous song. His later work with Mahalia Jackson and Della Reese further established Dorsey as an icon himself.

The man known as the father of gospel music died at the age of 93 on January 23, 1993, Today in Georgia History.