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Precious Lord/ Willa Mae Dorsey memorial

January 14th, 2009 by Anne Richardson · No Comments · Side Notes, Videos

Yesterday, we read that the late Portland gospel singer, Willa Mae Dorsey

….began singing professionally when she was 19, tackling gospel songs written by her father’s cousin, Thomas A. Dorsey. He wrote, “Precious Lord,” one of her lifelong favorite songs.

You don’t know “Precious Lord”? That’s funny, Etta James, Gladys Knight and Chaka Khan do.

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Calling Thomas A. Dorsey a songwriter is like calling Michael Phelps a guy who likes to practice rhythmic deep breathing underwater mostly naked. Technically you’re not wrong. But you’re missing the big picture.

Here’s one side of Dorsey, who music critic Stephen Calt ranked “as the most self-conscious, serious, and accomplished blues lyricist of his time.”

Thomas A. Dorsey, also known as “Georgia Tom,” had considerable success in the 1920s as a pianist, composer, and arranger for prominent blues singers including Ma Rainey. From www.southernmusic.net

But…… I thought you said he wrote Precious Lord, a gospel song! Well, he did. That’s his other side.

The amazing part of Dorsey’s career is that, contrary to legend, he began by juggling both gigs – notoriously raunchy blues musician and uplifting gospel singer/songwriter/choir director - at the same time.

Read more about Portlander Willa Mae Dorsey’s astonishingly influential second cousin who was much, much more than a songwriter.

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