Thomas A. Dorsey and Gospel Music

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Thomas A. Dorsey and Gospel Music

Gospel songs combined religious lyrics with melodies and rhythms inspired by early blues and jazz. Many churches rejected this new integration of religious conviction and popular song as devil's music that had no place in a house of worship.

Thomas A. Dorsey, the "Father of Gospel Music" described gospel, saying, "It's evangelistic, it has a rhythm and carries a message with the feeling and fever that many sacred songs do not have, the gospel is good news." "Good News" is often used as a reference to the word of God. Gospel music is sometimes simply called good news.

Thomas Andrew Dorsey, the "Father of Gospel Music," began using the phrase "gospel songs" in the mid-1920s, for a new kind of religious music. GGospels are songs of worship with the bounce and rhythm of early blues and jazz.

This music already had a number of champions, but Dorsey's commitment would give rise to a gospel movement in Chicago that would spread worldwide. His association with gospel music was so strong that for decades, songs in this style were simply called "Dorseys."

Thomas A. Dorsey grew up in the South, home of the blues. He was born in Villa Rica, Georgia, on July 1, 1899, to Thomas Madison and Etta Plant Dorsey. Dorsey's father was a traveling preacher and his mother played the organ at church.

Between 1914 and 1920, the Great Migration saw countless African Americans move North looking for a better life. As Dorsey remembered of his decision to move North, "[T]hey said it was a place of freedom. I was looking for that. And it was freer."

The freedom and opportunity sought by Dorsey and his fellow migrants found expression in an explosion of new music in Chicago-jazz, blues, and gospel. Soon Chi...

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...t Pilgrim Baptist Church. In 1933, the first National Convention of Gospel Choirs and Choruses was held at Pilgrim Baptist Church.

Within the next year, Dorsey established and expanded the institutions that would secure his place as a gospel legend. The growth of the Dorsey House of Music and the creation of the National Convention of Gospel Choirs and Choruses would demonstrate the power of Dorsey's commitment to gospel.

n the late 1970s, few outside the gospel community knew of Thomas A. Dorsey's contributions. Between 1979 and 1983, Dorsey's star rose again. In 1979, Thomas Andrew Dorsey became the first African American inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. He was recognized in a tribute at the Smithsonian Institution and in the documentary Say Amen Somebody. Following the movie, Dorsey was honored at universities and cities across the globe.
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