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Precious Lord, Take My Hand

Author: Thomas Andrew Dorsey

(no biographical information available about Thomas Andrew Dorsey.) Go to person page >

Text Information

First Line: Precious Lord, take my hand
Title: Precious Lord, Take My Hand
Author: Thomas Andrew Dorsey (1938)
Meter: Irregular
Language: English
Refrain First Line: Precious Lord, take my hand
Copyright: © 1938, Unichappell Music, Inc. (renewed). Assigned to Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp.


Scripture References:
all st. = Ps. 139:10

In 1932, a week after the death of his wife in childbirth and the subsequent death of his newborn son, Thomas Andrew Dorsey (b. Villa Rica, GA, 1899; d. Chicago, IL, 1993) wrote this text. He also arranged the George N. Allen tune PRECIOUS LORD to match his text. Dorsey is, considered the "father" of the African American gospel tradition (in distinction from the spiritual tradition) and was an active writer in this style from the 1920s through the 1950s. "Precious Lord" is the most popular of the early group of gospel songs that arose in the United States. Martin Luther King, Jr., chose the hymn as one of the "freedom anthems" of the Civil Rights Movement; since that time it has been included in many hymnals.

Given the circumstances surrounding Dorsey's writing of this text, it is not surprising that it has the character of the Old Testament lament psalms: we confess our own helplessness (st. 1), and we utter a cry for divine help (st. 2), but even in the face of death we are confident of God's saving power (st. 3).

Born into a Baptist preacher's family, Dorsey moved to Atlanta when he was five. There he studied music and came under the influence of local blues pianists. He moved to Chicago in 1915, where he studied at the Chicago College of Composition and Arranging and played in nightclubs as "Georgia Tom" or "Barrelhouse Tom," accompanying blues singers such as Tampa Red, Ma Rainey, and Bessie Smith. Because of his skill as composer, arranger, and pianist, he was in great demand. He also formed his own band, Wildcat's Jazz Band. After suffering from a severe illness in 1926, Dorsey became more involved with the Pilgrim Baptist Church and in 1932 began a forty-year tenure as the church's choral director. He wrote at least two hundred gospel songs (his total works number more than a thousand), organized and was president of the National Convention of Gospel Choirs and Choruses, and frequently directed other ensembles, including the Gospel Choral Union. His gospel songs were popularized by singers such as Mahalia Jackson, Roberta Martin, and Clara Ward.

Liturgical Use:
Similar to uses for Old Testament lament psalms: times of personal tragedy, communal disasters, international conflicts; services in which Christians want to express solidarity with the oppressed and those who experience "the valley of the shadow of death."

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook



PRECIOUS LORD, the tune Thomas Dorsey used for his most beloved hymn, "Precious Lord, take my hand", is an adaptation of MAITLAND. Sometimes Dorsey is shown as the composer, sometimes as the arranger or adapter the tune. MAITLAND is often attributed to Allen, but the earliest known sources (H.W. Bee…

Go to tune page >



Instances (1 - 51 of 51)

African American Heritage Hymnal #471

Baptist Hymnal 1991 #456

Baptist Hymnal 2008 #450

Breaking Bread (Vol. 39) #677

Celebrating Grace Hymnal #400

Chalice Hymnal #628

Christian Worship #451

Common Praise (1998) #509

Evangelical Lutheran Worship #773

Gather (3rd ed.) #955

Gather Comprehensive #874

Gather Comprehensive, Second Edition #847

Glory and Praise (3rd. ed.) #424

Text InfoAudio

Glory to God #834

Hymnal Supplement 1991 #824

Hymnal #575

Hymns for a Pilgrim People #434

Hymns of Promise #93

Journeysongs (3rd ed.) #548

Lead Me, Guide Me (2nd ed.) #780

Lift Every Voice and Sing II #106


Lift Up Your Hearts #465

Lutheran Service Book #739

One in Faith #788

Oramos Cantando = We Pray In Song #789

Praise! Our Songs and Hymns #374

Text InfoTune InfoAudio

Psalter Hymnal (Gray) #493

Rejoice Hymns #504

RitualSong (2nd ed.) #826

RitualSong #754

Santo, Santo, Santo #336

Sing Joyfully #494

Songs of Zion #179

The Celebration Hymnal #684

The Covenant Hymnal #413


The Cyber Hymnal #5607

The Hymnal for Worship and Celebration #463

The New Century Hymnal #472

The New National Baptist Hymnal #339

The New National Baptist Hymnal (21st Century Edition) #305

The Presbyterian Hymnal #404


The United Methodist Hymnal #474

The Worshiping Church #638

This Far By Faith #193

Voices United #670

With One Voice #731

Wonder, Love, and Praise #800

Worship (4th ed.) #980

Worship and Rejoice #500

Worship in Song #178

찬송과 예배 = Chansong gwa yebae = Come, Let Us Worship #309

Include 41 pre-1979 instances
Suggestions or corrections? Contact us


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