” I always had rhythm in my bones. I like the solid beat. I like the long, moaning, groaning tone. I like the rock. You know how they rock and shout in the church. I like it. It’s a thing people look for now. Don’t let your singing group die, don’t let the movement go out of the music. Black music calls for movement! It calls for feeling. Don’t let it get away.
-Thomas Andrew Dorsey, 1973
Thomas Dorsey was first exposed to music in his father’s church. His father purchased his own portable organ, and soon he fell in love with the instrument which influenced Dorsey. When he was eleven, he was forced to drop out of school and eventually collected enough money to buy his own piano. After he learned how to play piano, he began to travel and he played at bars and parties. Eventually he made his own name for himself, because the people of Atlanta began to call him the top “party pianist.” During the great migration Dorsey moved to Chicago and tried to have success playing bars there, but had no luck so he was forced to return to Atlanta.
In 1921, Thomas Dorsey’s first gospel song was published. It is called “If I Don’t Get There,” and is believed to have been the song that gave us the framework for the rest of music career. It showed us what type music he would produce in his life and also how he was going to influence modern gospel music itself. Later in his life he worked with prominent gospel singers, such as Mahalia Jackson, which really catapulted his career into the forefront of the gospel music scene.