Thomas Dorsey: The Father Of Gospel Music

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“I’ve always been drawn to gospel music and the roots of African American music. It’s the foundation of rock and roll.” Hozier, an Irish musician, was right when he claimed that Gospel music laid the foundation for rock and roll, but how did gospel get such an influential role? What figures popularized gospel so that it became a known genre of music worldwide? Who transformed the once tame church music into the emotional music that is now heard? While gospel may have started with other musicians, Thomas Dorsey changed and defined gospel as we know it today. Through the Pilgrim Church, the National Convention of Gospel Choirs, and Dorsey’s song, “Precious Lord, Take My Hand,” Thomas Dorsey became the “Father of Gospel.” Gospel has been…show more content…
Thomas Dorsey was born on July 1, 1899, in Villa Rica, Georgia. He was the son of a Baptist Minister and the grandson of a slave (Reich 9). Dorsey took the skills that he learned from his mother, who taught him music from a young age, and started a career as a blues pianist and arranger. The music that he played during this time was so soft and smooth that he was often times called the “whispering piano player.” Many also described him as being able to play “southern blues” with a “northern feel” (Johnson 813). Not only was he a naturally gifted musician, but he also had the opportunity to make a name for himself by playing blues for influential artists such as Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith (Lee 19). Then all of the sudden, after all of his success with the blues, he switched his focus to gospel. Dr. Charles Wolfe explains why Dorsey suddenly changed from blues back to the church, “He lost a lot of money suddenly. He took that as some kind of sign and he began to turn his considerable songwriting talents to gospel music” (qtd. in “History of Gospel Music 03”). His childhood of listening to his father, hearing the songs that were being played in churches and what he learned from his experiences as a blues musician intermingled to create music that would bring people back to the church and forever change the music that was being

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