Elvis Presley, the king of rock and roll, grew up with a strong faith in God. He regularly attended church, and gospel music became an important influence for his music career. One of the popular gospel songs that he covered was ‘Take My Hand, Precious Lord.'
"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.
This song, written by Thomas A. Dorsey in 1932, has a profound message of hope but came from a place of devastating tragedy. At that time, Thomas recently married his wife Nettie and she was expecting their first child. Dorsey recounts the day when he was performing at a large revival meeting in St. Louis and got the news that would change his life forever.
"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."
That surreal and tragic moment was one that Thomas Dorsey would never forget. “People were happily singing and clapping around me, but I could hardly keep from crying out.”
The Tragedy That Led To The Song ‘Take My Hand, Precious Lord’
Heartbroken, Dorsey rushed back home to Chicago. “When I got back, I learned that Nettie had given birth to a boy. I swung between grief and joy," explained Dorsey. "Yet that night, the baby died. I buried Nettie and our little boy together, in the same casket. Then I fell apart."
Thomas fell into despair and withdrew from his family, friends, and his passion, music. During this time, a friend visited him and arranged for him to be left alone in a room with a piano. For the first time in many days, Thomas sat down at a piano and let his fingers glide along the keys. It was just what his soul needed.
"I felt at peace, I felt as though I could reach out and touch God," recounted Dorsey. "I found myself playing a melody, one I’d never heard or played before, and words came into my head -they just seemed to fall into place.”
Thomas Dorsey And The Success Of ‘Take My Hand, Precious Lord’
Those words became the lyrics to his most famous gospel song, ‘Take My Hand, Precious Lord.' The song captures the grief that not only Dorsey felt, but of what many people who have suffered a significant loss feel. The song reminds us that when we are suffering and feeling like we are at the end of our rope, we can always reach out to God.
‘Take My Hand, Precious Lord' has remained a beloved gospel song all these years and has been performed by music legends like Mahalia Jackson and Elvis Presley. It has even been translated into more than 40 languages. It was a favorite song of Martin Luther King Jr. and was sung at the rally in Memphis the night before his assassination. President Lyndon B. Johnson also loved the song and requested it to be sung at his funeral.
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Even with the tragedies in life, God can help us overcome them and use our struggles for good. The Lord gave Thomas Dorsey the strength he needed to go on and write ‘Take My Hand, Precious Lord.' Now, this beloved hymn will continue to encourage people for years to come.