About the song
If you are a fan of Elvis Presley, you may have heard his rendition of the gospel song “Take My Hand, Precious Lord”. But do you know the history behind this song and why it was so meaningful to Elvis and many others?
The song was written by Thomas A. Dorsey, who is widely regarded as the “Father of Black Gospel Music”. Dorsey was born in Georgia in 1899 and grew up in a musical family. He learned to play piano and became a prolific composer and performer of blues and jazz music under various stage names. He worked with famous artists like Ma Rainey and Tampa Red.
However, Dorsey’s life changed dramatically in 1932 when he experienced a personal tragedy. His wife Nettie died while giving birth to their son, who also did not survive. Dorsey was devastated and fell into a deep depression. He questioned his faith and felt that God had abandoned him.
In his grief, Dorsey found comfort in music. He wrote “Take My Hand, Precious Lord” as a prayer to God for guidance and strength in his darkest hour. He adapted the melody from an existing hymn tune called “Maitland” and wrote the lyrics based on his own feelings of sorrow and hope.
The song was first published in 1938 and soon became popular among African American churches and gospel singers. It was recorded by many artists, including the Heavenly Gospel Singers, Mahalia Jackson, Aretha Franklin, Nina Simone, and Ledisi.
One of the most famous recordings of the song was made by Elvis Presley in 1957 for his album Elvis’ Christmas Album. Elvis had a strong connection to the song since his childhood. He grew up listening to gospel music and singing in church choirs. He admired Dorsey’s music and met him in person in 1956.
Elvis also related to the song’s message of faith and perseverance. He faced many challenges and hardships in his life, such as poverty, fame, addiction, divorce, and death. He often sang “Take My Hand, Precious Lord” as a way of expressing his emotions and seeking God’s help.
The song was also a favorite of Martin Luther King Jr., who was a friend of Mahalia Jackson. King often asked Jackson to sing the song at civil rights rallies and events. He also requested that the song be played at his funeral after he was assassinated in 1968.
“Take My Hand, Precious Lord” is more than just a song. It is a testimony of faith, hope, and love that has touched millions of hearts across generations and cultures. It is a song that speaks to the human condition and the need for divine grace.