Some songs just cause me to wonder how they came about, who wrote the lyrics and what the underlying reason might have been. There is so much history enclosed within a song, whether it is the message or the person who framed it and put it into music.

I am attracted by the following song "Peace in the Valley." There are several versions of the lyrics depending on the person singing it and where it was sung. Various versions have been sung by Johnny Cash, Soul Stirrers, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Mahalia Jackson, Red Foley, Roy Rogers and probably by many of us.

The original song was written by Thomas Andrew Dorsey, who is considered to be the father of gospel music.

I am tired and weary but I must toil on

Till the Lord come to call me away

Where the morning is bright and the Lamb is the light

And the night is fair as the day

There'll be peace in the valley for me some day

There'll be peace in the valley for me

I pray no more sorrow and sadness or trouble will be

There'll be peace in the valley for me

There the flow'rs will be blooming, the grass will be green

And the skies will be clear and serene

The sun ever shines, giving one endless beam

And the clouds there will ever be seen

There the bear will be gentle, the wolf will be tame

And the lion will lay down by the lamb

The host from the wild will be led by a Child

I'll be changed from the creature I am

No headaches or heartaches or misunderstands

No confusion or trouble won't be

No frowns to defile, just a big endless smile

There'll be peace and contentment for me

Thomas was one of five children and was born in Georgia in 1900. His mother played her portable organ in the church that his father, a Baptist minister known for his flamboyant style, often was preaching.

By age 12, influenced by an uncle who was an itinerant blues musician, Thomas had learned to play his mother's organ. Skipping school, he hung out in theaters and music halls. Thomas later played with jazz bands as "Georgia Tom." At age 17, he moved to Indiana to pursue a musical career. Knowing he lacked the music education that would enable him to realize his dreams, he went to Chicago and enrolled in the Chicago College of Composition and Arranging.

He then formed a band that soon became a backup for a well-known blues singer. By 1928, he had co-written and published a hit blues song, "It's Tight Like That" selling 7 million copies. He then established the first independent publishing company that published black gospel music. Before then, blues gospel music was often not accepted by African-American churches.

Thomas' Christian upbringing conflicted with the life he was leading, resulting in two nervous breakdowns. In 1930, after his wife Nettie and newborn son died during childbirth, he realized he needed to change and could no longer be part of the jazz world. (This was the time he wrote "Take my Hand, Precious Lord," a favorite of Martin Luther King.) Dorsey then was choir director at his Baptist Church with the blues background apparent in his composing and singing.

In 1933, Dorsey helped organize the National Convention of Gospel Choirs and Choruses. He was the first who composed songs called "gospel." African-American spirituals gave birth to a new type of Christian songs inspired by the Gospel and related to daily life. Chicago's African-American, old-line Protestant churches he was involved in rejected this new form of song because of the reputation blues performance had and the excitement gospel blues produced in the church congregation. However, by the end of the 1930s, overwhelming acceptance of the congregation to gospel blues prevailed.

In 1937, Dorsey wrote "Peace in the Valley" for the great gospel soloist Mahalia Jackson. In the late 1920s, they had worked together on technique and repertoire and would tour together again in the 1940s. In an interview with gospel history author Lindsay Terry, Thomas said all his work had been "from God, for God and for his people."

Testimony of that can be in the nearly 1,000 gospel songs he wrote in his lifetime.

Thomas Andrew Dorsey died Jan. 23, 1993. In 1982, he was the first African-American elected to the Gospel Music Association's Living Hall of Fame. He also was elected to the Georgia Music Hall of Fame.

The same year, the Thomas A. Dorsey Archives were opened at Fisk University, where his collection joined those of W.C. Handy, George Gershwin and the famed Jubilee Singers.

Another lesser version of "Peace in the Valley" by Carole King and Toni Stern might be appropriate for us to consider as we live in our world today:

Looking out my window

Peace in the valley just don't come

Though I know that man's my brother

And that I'm the selfish one

The hour is getting later

It's time we had begun

Knowing something's one thing

But the race must still be run

Take care of little jealousies

And talk that kills for fun

And hold your heart in readiness

It's so easy to come undone

But I think I saw a brand new light

Coming over the horizon

Brighter than all the others

And it says, "All men are brothers under the skin

Brothers under the skin"

Looking out my windowPeace in the valley just don't come

Though I know that she's my sister

And that I'm the selfish one

And I look at all the people

And I love the ones I can

And I wonder if the dream will be

Or be turned into sand

Still I think I saw a brand new light

Coming over the horizon

Brighter than all the others

And it says, "All men are brothers under the skin

Brothers under the skin"

Peace in the valley just don't come

Peace in the valley just don't come.

Peace is earned. God Bless America.

Ruth Moriarity is a member of The Hays Daily News Generations advisory group.