2020 Black History-Thomas A. Dorsey Father of Black Gospel Music

A Young Thomas Dorsey

Wikipedia is contended to be a fair use

Thomas Dorsey is considered the Father of Black Gospel Music. He started working at the age of 11 after dropping out of school to help support his family.


Thomas Dorsey was born in Villa Rica, Georgia, on July 1, 1899. His father was a Baptist minister, and his mother worked as a music teacher and served as the church organist. His mother taught him how to play the piano.


Dorsey lost his connection to the church when the family moved to Atlanta, because of economic struggles. His father became a day laborer and was no longer pastoring a church. His mother worked as a domestic servant?

Dorsey style rejected by Mainstream Churches

Dorsey was one of the first to combine Christian praise with rhythms of jazz and blues. The phrase “Gospel Music” is credited to Dorsey. In the beginning, many mainstream churches rejected his songs. 


He spoke many times about being “thrown out of some of the best churches in America,” where the pastor’s labeled his gospel songs as “Devil Music.”

During Dorsey’s career

Dorsey initially performed under the name of Georgia Tom. He was a leading Blues pianist, and his best-selling record was the hit “Tight Like That,” recorded in 1928 with Tampa Red. The song sold over seven million copies.

He served as Ma Rainey’s jazz bandleader in the early 1920’s and put together the “Wild Cats Jazz band” for her.

Thomas A. Dorsey is credited with publishing over 400 jazz and blues songs and composed hundreds more.


Earlier in his career, Tom played piano regularly in Al Capone’s speakeasies and other Chicago after hour spots where he was known as the “Whispering Piano Player.” This nickname was given to him because he was adept at playing soft enough at the parties to keep from drawing police attention.


In 1931 Dorsey’s wife, Nettie Harper, died giving birth to their first child, Thomas Andrew Jr., who died a day later. Dorsey wrote his most famous composition, “Precious Lord, Take My Hand,” while he was grieving their deaths.

Dorsey is the founder of the first black gospel music publishing company, Dorsey House of Music. He was unhappy with the treatment he received at the hands of established publishers.

Dorsey is the founder and the first president of the National Convention of Gospel Choirs and Choruses (NCGCC) still exists today. He served in this capacity for six decades.

Inductions to the Halls of Fame

  • Dorsey was the first African-American elected to the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame,

  • Gospel Music Association’s Living Hall of Fame.

  • Georgia Music Hall of Fame in 1982

  • He was inducted into the Gennett Records Walk of Fame for Gospel music in 2007.

Fisk University Archives

Fisk holds his composition papers in Thomas A. Dorsey Archives. Fisk University, where his collection joined those of W. C. Hand known as the Father of Blues George Gershwin and the Jubilee Singers.

Dorsey discovered

Dorsey is responsible for finding and nurturing the career of the world’s first gospel superstar, Mahalia Jackson. Together they ushered in what became known as the “Golden Age of Gospel Music.” Mahalia’s two most significant songs and future gospel standards, “Precious Lord” and “Peace in the Valley,” were composed by Dorsey.

Dorsey’s influence and impact

Dorsey’s work influenced presidents, African-American, and white artists. Most, if not all, of these artists, recorded Dorsey’s work Albertina Walker and the Caravans, Little Joey McClork. Elvis Presley, Aretha Franklin, B. B. King, Clara Ward, Dorothy Norwood, Jim Reeves, Roy Rogers, Tennessee Ernie Ford, and Johnny Cash, among many others.


Rev. Dorsey made his transition at the age of 93 in Chicago, Illinois, on January 23, 1993.

Other noted Information about Thomas Dorsey

Thomas Dorsey was a member of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity. He also served as Music Director of Pilgrim Baptist Church (Chicago, IL) from 1932 to the late 1970s.

The Library of Congress added his album Precious Lord: New Recordings of the Great Songs of Thomas A. Dorsey (1973) to the United States National Recording Registry in 2002.

The above information is taken from the following links:


Darlene J. Harris does not take credit for any of the above information; any modifications are only for the purpose of this project.

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