Precious and Pescador

Two songs with different pedigrees: gospel and Spanish folk. Our third consecutive 5 versus 12 match-up.

“Precious Lord, Take My Hand” was reportedly the favorite hymn of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.. It has some recognition in mainstream Catholic circles, so this second Gospel song in the Dance sneaks in as a number-12 seed. There’s a pretty well researched and footnoted piece in wikipedia. Included:

The melody, although credited to Dorsey, was taken from a 1844 hymn entitled, “Maitland,” by American composer, George N. Allen (1812–1877).[1] Dorsey said he used it as inspiration.[2] The “Maitland” music was for the text “Must Jesus Bear the Cross Alone”, it first appeared in The Oberlin Social and Sabbath School Hymn Book.[3] Dorsey penned “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]

Your other choice was the number one Spanish-language song in the NPM top-25. Would it influence your vote to know that “Pescador de Hombres” was a favorite of the late Pope John Paul II? I’ve seen that attributed on a few web pages. We have a student in our student center form Poland who insists this is so.

I like the text and tune, though some of the harmonizations I’ve seen floating around are fairly weak. The composer was a Spanish Basque priest, Cesáreo Gabaraín.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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3 Responses to Precious and Pescador

  1. Karl says:

    Hands down, Precious Lord; it’s one of the most important monuments of American sacred hymnody, in the sense that any survey of the most indelible hymns in American culture would be seriously lacking if it was omitted or not given its due.

    After Dr King’s assassination, Joyce Merman & George Allen crafted an alternative text that used Dr King’s final speech as its inspiration; this version is also very well known.

    • Karl says:

      PS: by the wonders of YouTube, here is a clip of Mahalia Jackson offering this veritable well of grief at Dr King’s funeral:

    • Jimmy Mac says:

      Even though I am a big fan of “Pescador,” I’ll agree with Karl 100% on Precious Lord.

      Admittedly that’s the influence of my 20 years’ membership in a nondenominational church in which PLTMH was typical of the kind of music we used.

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