Personalities | Georgia Tom Dorsey | Early Years | Jazz & Blues
(Vocals, piano, 1899–1993)
Thomas A. Dorsey earned his greatest fame as the ‘Father of Gospel Music’ after leaving his blues career behind in 1932, but in his early days he was an important blues performer, songwriter, arranger and studio musician. In his youth in ragtime-era Atlanta and in Chicago from 1916, Dorsey developed his piano-playing skills at barrelhouses and rent parties. He also worked with jazz orchestras and Ma Rainey’s band before teaming up with Tampa Red in 1928. Dorsey composed songs for the duo as well as material for Ma Rainey and others, and had a special knack for the risqué double entendre – ironic for a man best known for religious classics such as ‘Precious Lord (Take My Hand)’.
Dorsey achieved his greatest success as a music publisher and was founder of the National Convention of Gospel Choirs and Choruses, Inc. Despite his stature in religious circles, Dorsey continued to give credit to the blues, both as a valid expression of the human condition and as a contributing element in the development and acceptance of gospel music.
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