Take My Hand, Precious Lord
|"Precious Lord, Take My Hand"|
|Single by Mahalia Jackson|
|from the album 'Bless This House'|
|Recorded||Tuesday, March 27, 1956|
|Writer(s)||Thomas A. Dorsey|
The melody is credited to Dorsey, drawn from an 1844 hymn entitled "Maitland" by American composer George N. Allen (1812–1877).1 Dorsey said that he used it as inspiration.2 The "Maitland" music was for the text "Must Jesus Bear the Cross Alone," and first appeared in The Oberlin Social and Sabbath School Hymn Book.3 Dorsey wrote "Precious Lord" in response to his inconsolable bereavement at the death of his wife, Nettie Harper, in childbirth, and his infant son in August 1932.4 (Mr. Dorsey can be seen telling this story in the 1981 gospel music documentary Say Amen, Somebody.) The earliest known recording was made on February 16, 1937, by the Heavenly Gospel Singers (Bluebird B6846).5 "Take My Hand, Precious Lord" is published in more than 40 languages.6
It was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s favorite song, and he often invited gospel singer Mahalia Jackson to sing it at civil rights rallies to inspire the crowds; at his request she sang it at his funeral in April 1968. King's last words were, just before being shot, to play it at a mass he was attending the night of his assassination. Opera singer Leontyne Price sang it at the state funeral of President Lyndon Baines Johnson in January 1973,7 and Aretha Franklin sang it at Mahalia Jackson's funeral in 1972. Aretha Franklin also recorded a live version of the song for her album Amazing Grace (1972) as a medley with "You've Got a Friend". It was sung by Nina Simone at the Westbury Music Fair on April 7, 1968, three days after the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King. That evening was dedicated to him and recorded on the album 'Nuff Said!
A number of quality musicians have recorded the classic song. The song was recorded by Mahalia Jackson on Tuesday March 27, 1956, on the album Bless This House (Columbia Records CL 899) with The Fall-Jones Ensemble: Mildred Falls (piano), Ralph Jones (organ).8 Jim Reeves' version of the song may be one of the best known of all. It was released as the 'B' side of his hit single "This World is Not My Home" in 1965.
"Take My Hand, Precious Lord" was inducted into the Christian Music Hall of Fame in 2007.9 It was also included in the list of Songs of the Century, by the Recording Industry Association of America and the National Endowment for the Arts.
- Westermeyer, Paul. Let the People Sing: Hymn Tunes in Perspective (2005), GIA Publications, page 311 - ISBN 1-57999-353-2
- Boyer, Horace Clarence. The Golden Age of Gospel (2000), University of Illinois Press, page 61 - ISBN 0-252-06877-7
- "Must Jesus Bear the Cross Alone" music
- Shaw, Arnold. Honkers and Shouters: The Golden Years of Rhythm and Blues (1978), Macmillan Publishing Company, pp. 8-11 - ISBN 0-02-610000-2
- Dixon, Robert M. W. Blues and Gospel Records: 1890-1943, Oxford University Press (1997), page 370 - ISBN 0-19-816239-1
- McNeil, W. K. Encyclopedia of American Gospel Music (2005), Routledge, page 107 - ISBN 0-415-94179-2
- Woods, Randall. LBJ: Architect of American Ambition (2006), Simon and Schuster, page 884 - ISBN 0-684-83458-8
- Columbia and Later Recordings
- Christian Music Hall of Fame