Elvis Fact of the Week
- Peace in the Valley & Take My Hand, Precious Lord
The Story Behind the Songs "Peace In The Valley" and "Take My Hand, Precious Lord":
Elvis was well known for his great love of gospel music, which was his primary choice for his own personal listening pleasure. It gave him comfort and eased his mind of stress. It was the music of his heart. Here, we look at the history behind the songs "Peace In The Valley" and "Take My Hand, Precious Lord," which were both written by Thomas A. Dorsey.
Thomas A. Dorsey, son of a traveling preacher, was born in 1899 and raised in Atlanta, Georgia. While still a teen he ventured north to Chicago to make his name as a blues singer and piano player. For a while he studied at the Chicago School of Composition and began writing gospel music with a blues flair. It is Thomas A. Dorsey who is credited with coining the term "gospel music," as before him the genre was known as either hymns or spirituals. Plagued by chronic illness and resistance to his new form of music, he reverted to playing in the juke joints and bars in order to make a living.
It was in the late 1930s while traveling through the Indiana countryside enroute to Cincinnati that he was inspired to write the song "(There'll Be) Peace In The Valley (For Me)." The world around him had been in turmoil with the coming war. He had been humming an old slave song "We Shall Walk Through The Valley of Peace" when traveling through a serene valley filled with various animals grazing together. He said, "...It made me wonder what's the matter with humanity? What's the matter with mankind? Why couldn't man live in peace like the animals down there?" Thus, a new song was born.
"(There'll Be) Peace in the Valley (For Me)" became a hit record for Mahalia Jackson and was very popular during World War II. Clyde Julian "Red" Foley backed by the Sunshine Boys Quartet, recorded it in 1951 and it became a country music hit. The Stamps Quartet recorded it in 1952.
Elvis had promised his mother Gladys that he would sing it for her on his January 6, 1957 appearance on the Ed Sullivan show. Gordon Stoker of The Jordanaires tells how the producers did not want the young rebel rocker to sing a gospel song, but Elvis insisted. A week later on January 13, 1957, Elvis recorded the song at Radio Recorders in Hollywood, accompanied by Scotty Moore (lead guitar), Bill Black (bass), D. J. Fontana (drums) and The Jordanaires (backing vocals), with Gordon Stoker playing piano.
That same day Elvis also recorded another Dorsey song, "Take My Hand, Precious Lord". Dorsey wrote it in 1932 in an attempt to ease his overwhelming grief after the death of his first wife and child in childbirth. Mr. Dorsey recorded the song himself in 1939.
It was the Golden Gate Quartet's version that inspired Elvis's rendition. It was released on the EP "Peace In the Valley."