Dorsey, Thomas Andrew

▪ 1994

      U.S. songwriter, singer, and pianist (b. July 1, 1899, Villa Rica, Ga.—d. Jan. 23, 1993, Chicago, Ill.), as the "father of gospel music," blended elements of soulful blues with the traditional sacred music of his religious upbringing to create a new genre called gospel, which infused an uplifting, foot-stomping sound into black congregations, primarily of Baptist and Holiness churches. Dorsey, the son of a preacher, began composing mainly secular blues songs while a teenager, and he helped support his family by singing and playing the piano. After moving to Chicago (1916), he appeared under the name Georgia Tom, became pianist for blues great Ma Rainey, and composed "hokum" songs (those peppered with risqué double entendres), notably "It's Tight like That" (1928; with guitarist Tampa Red), which eventually sold some seven million copies. In 1919 he began to write what would be the first of more than 1,000 gospel songs. One of his first successes, "If You See My Savior, Tell Him that You Saw Me" (1926), was written after a close friend died, and the hymn "Precious Lord, Take My Hand" was composed following the death of his first wife in childbirth and his infant son the following day. That song was popularized by singer Mahalia Jackson, was named by the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., as his favourite song, and threatened to unseat "Amazing Grace" as the anthem of African-Americans. Another famous composition was "Peace in the Valley," which was popularized by many singers, including Elvis Presley. In 1932 Dorsey, who had written hundreds of blues songs, abandoned that genre; he founded (1932) the Pilgrim Baptist Church in Chicago and served as its musical director until 1983. In 1933 he founded the National Convention of Gospel Choirs and Choruses in Chicago, of which he was president for 40 years. In 1982 he appeared in the gospel documentary Say Amen, Somebody.

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▪ American musician
born July 1, 1899, Villa Rica, Ga., U.S.
died Jan. 23, 1993, Chicago, Ill.
 American songwriter, singer, and pianist whose many up-tempo blues arrangements of gospel music hymns earned him the title of “Father of Gospel Music.”

      Dorsey was the son of a revivalist preacher. He was influenced in childhood by blues pianists in the Atlanta, Ga., area and worked in secular “hokum” music as a composer, arranger, pianist, and vocalist from 1910 through 1928. In 1916 he moved to Chicago, where he attended the College of Composition and Arranging. In the 1920s he toured with Ma Rainey (Rainey, Ma) and his own bands, often featuring the slide guitarist Tampa Red.

      From 1929 on Dorsey worked exclusively within a religious setting, consciously applying blues melodies and rhythms to spiritual concerns. Dozens of his optimistic and sentimental songs became gospel standards, notably “Precious Lord, Take My Hand” (1932). He recorded extensively in the early 1930s, publishing his own sheet music and lyrics. From 1932 Dorsey was choral director of the Pilgrim Baptist Church in Chicago. He founded the National Convention of Gospel Choirs and Choruses in Chicago in 1933, serving as its president for 40 years. He stopped recording in 1934 but toured widely into the 1940s. Thereafter, though he continued writing, he concentrated on lecturing and administrative duties.

Additional Reading
Michael W. Harris, The Rise of Gospel Blues: The Music of Thomas Andrew Dorsey in the Urban Church (1992), follows his career to 1932.

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Universalium. 2010.

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  • Dorsey — US brothers who, together and separately, led a number of popular dance bands in the 1930s and 1940s. Tommy played the trombone and Jimmy played the clarinet. They appeared together in the film The Fabulous Dorseys (1947). * * * (as used in… …   Universalium

  • Andrew — /an drooh/, n. 1. one of the 12 apostles of Jesus. Mark 3:18; John 1:40 42. 2. a male given name: from a Greek word meaning manly. * * * (as used in expressions) Andrew II Andrew Saint Borden Lizzie Andrew Carnegie Andrew Dalhousie James Andrew… …   Universalium

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  • Thomas Dorsey — ist der Name von Thomas Andrew Dorsey (1899–1993), US amerikanischer Blues Pianist und Gospelkomponist Thomas Francis Dorsey (1905–1956), US amerikanischer Swing Posaunist und Bigband Chef Diese Seite ist eine …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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