The Birth of the hymn “Precious Lord”


Mom sends me the best forwards.  I am sure I’ve seen this, but it struck me today in a special way.  I hope it will be a blessing to you as well.  Thanks Mom!  LOVE YOU!

Back in 1932, I was a fairly new husband. My wife, Nettie and I were living in a little apartment on Chicago ‘s south side. One hot August afternoon I had to go to St. Louis where I was to be the featured soloist at a large revival meeting. I didn’t want to go; Nettie was in the last month of pregnancy with our first child, but a lot of people were expecting me in St. Louis. I kissed Nettie goodbye, clattered downstairs to our Model A and, in a fresh Lake Michigan breeze, chugged out of Chicago on Route 66.

However, outside the city, I discovered that in my anxiety at leaving, I had forgotten my music case. I wheeled around and headed back.

I found Nettie sleeping peacefully. I hesitated by her bed; something was strongly telling me to stay But eager to get on my way, and not wanting to disturb Nettie, I shrugged off the feeling and quietly slipped out of the room with my music.

The next night, in the steaming St. Louis heat, the crowd called on me to sing again and again. When I finally sat down, a messenger boy ran up with a Western Union Telegram. I ripped open the envelope…. Pasted on the yellow sheet were the words: YOUR WIFE JUST DIED.

People were happily singing and clapping around me, but I could hardly keep from crying out. I rushed to a phone and called home. All I could hear on the other end was “Nettie is dead, Nettie is dead.’”

When I got back, I learned that Nettie had given birth to a boy. I swung between grief and joy. Yet that same night, the baby died. I buried Nettie and our little boy together, in the same casket. Then I fell apart.  For days I closeted myself. I felt that God had done me an injustice. I didn’t want to serve Him anymore or write gospel songs. I just wanted to go back to that jazz world I once knew so well. But then, as I hunched alone in that dark apartment those first sad days, I thought back to the afternoon I went to St. Louis. Something kept telling me to stay with Nettie.  Was that something God? Oh, if I had paid more attention to Him that day, I would have stayed and been with Nettie when she died.

From that moment on I vowed to listen more closely to Him. But still I was lost in grief. Everyone was kind to me, especially one friend. The following Saturday evening he took me up to Maloney’s Poro College , a neighborhood music school. It was quiet; the late evening sun crept through the curtained windows.

I sat down at the piano, and my hands began to browse over the keys. Something happened to me then. I felt at peace. I felt as though I could reach out and touch God. I found myself playing a melody. Once in my head they just seemed to fall into place: ‘Precious Lord, take my hand, lead me on, let me stand, I am tired, I am weak, I am worn, through the storm, through the night, lead me on to the light, take my hand, precious Lord, lead me home.’

The Lord gave me these words and melody, He also healed my spirit. I learned that when we are in our deepest grief, when we feel farthest from God, this is when He is closest, and when we are most open to His restoring power.

And so I go on living for God willingly and joyfully, until that day comes when He will take me and gently lead me home.

- – - -Tommy Dorsey

About these ads

5 comments on “The Birth of the hymn “Precious Lord”

  1. Tom Bolton says:

    Thomas A. Dorsey is the father of gospel music, pure and simple, and he wrote this hymn. After turning his back on a successful career in the blues, Dorsey wrote many of the most important and enduring songs of inspiration. He is not the Tommy Dorsey who was an American jazz trombonist, trumpeter, composer, and bandleader though. Same root name, but different musicians!

    • Thank you so much for this comment! It’s funny how E-mail things go around like this and we just go with it.

      • Tom Bolton says:

        I said that harsher than I meant it. It is still a great story of inspiration. I think the story is true, from what i have read, but the composer is a different Thomas Dorsey. A great hymn anyway!

        • No worries Tom, I didn’t take it as a harsh statement. I’m glad to know this fact. As I mentioned I had seen this floating around in e-mail forwards in the past. I never knew they were different people. I appreciate your comment.

          Shalom :)

          ML

  2. [...] The Birth of the hymn “Precious Lord” (revmichaelslifejournal.wordpress.com) [...]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s