Gospel Music

Who was known as the “Father of Gospel Music”?

Thomas Dorsey (1899–1993), the “Father of Gospel,” founded the first black gospel choir in the world with Theodore Frye at Chicago’s Ebenezer Baptist Church in 1931. He established the first music publishing firm, Dorsey Music, dedicated to only gospel music, in 1932. In 1930 the National Baptist Convention, U.S.A., was the first major religious group to publicly endorse gospel music. From this endorsement followed the first choruses, the first publishing houses, the first professional organizations, and the first paid gospel concerts. The action of the Baptist convention, which had been carried away by Dorsey’s “If You See My Savior,” called public attention to a major change that had been taking place in the music of black churches, and is often considered the starting point for the history of gospel music. Dorsey wrote more than two thousand blues and gospel songs during his lifetime. “Precious Lord, Take My Hand” has been declared one of the most profound expressions of Christian faith ever published. Dorsey was born in Villa Rica, Georgia, to an itinerant preacher who moved about until he settled in Atlanta. Dorsey left school after grade four, when he was around the age of thirteen. By age fourteen he was playing for dances at rent parties and in brothels. By 1919 he had settled in Chicago, where he enrolled in the Chicago School of Composition to develop his skills. He became music director at New Hope Baptist Church and began to write songs; his first religious piece was “If I Don’t Get There.” He was soon earning his living by arranging music. He wrote the famous “Precious Lord, Take My Hand” after mourning the loss of his newborn son.


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