Monday, August 18, 2008

Thomas A. Dorsey (1899-1993)

Thomas A. Dorsey, known as The Father Of Gospel Music had two careers: composer of religious gospel songs, and a low down blues performer.

In 1908, the Thomas moved to Atlanta where he was exposed to all kind of secular music, including the urban blues of Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey. He grew up in Villa Rica, Georgia, in the musical wealth of the black church where his father was a preacher.

By 12 years old, Dorsey was a piano genius and in his late teens he went on his quest to the North; settling in Chicago in 1916. Thomas Dorsey studied music at Chicago's College of Composition, where he continued arranging while making music. Songs he was most famous for are, "If you don't believe I'm leaving, count the days until I'm gone", and gospel hymn "If I don't get there".

Dorsey gave his heart to Jesus a long time ago by promising not to sing urban blues, but the real money was in secular music so he stayed. Before long he worked with a band called, "The Whispering Syncopators".

Jazz musician Joe "King" Oliver recorded Dorsey's composition "Riverside Blues", which became his first single. The next two years he worked with legendary blues singer, Ma Rainey and the Wild Cat Jazz Band. Dorsey went on to write sexually suggestive songs titled, "Pat My Bread" and "It's Tight Like That" which sold 7 million copies.

When Dorsey was done with his tour, he settled back home and wrote a song that was inspired by the death of his wife and infant child. The song became nationally known as, "Precious Lord Take My hand".

In 1933, Dorsey co-founded the "National Convention of Gospel Choirs and Choruses", therefore establishing the first Black gospel music publishing company named, "Dorsey House of Music"

After the death of his family Dorsey, only composed religious songs for the rest of his life. He eventually married again and fathered another child. He continued his life of writing and promoting gospel music, until his death at the age of 93 years old.

Thank you Thomas A. Dorsey for your creative style and brilliant mind. You left a legacy of timeless songs still being heard in the 21st century. 

Question: Do you think the Black Church still has a strong influence on the music of certain Black artist's?

2008 LA

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