Sister Rosetta Tharpe is one of the most influential artists of the 20th century and is considered the ‘Godmother of Rock ’n’ Roll’. You may not have ever heard of her because Tharpe’s contributions have essentially been erased from history.
Before Elvis Presley, Jonny Cash, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Chuck Berry, there was Sister Rosetta Tharpe. She is credited by each of these men as an inspiration to their musical careers. Her innovative guitar and vocal style influence an entirely new genre known today as Rock and Roll. With her distinctive voice and unique electric guitar skills, Rosetta Tharpe was ahead of her time.
Tharpe was a musical phenomenon and a superstar in her days. Born on this day (March 20th) in the small town of Cotton Plant, Arkansas in 1915, and raised in the Pentecostal church. She perfected her musical talent at revivals and churches. Her innovative sound was met with a mix of excitement and alarm on the religious circuit. She was determined to keep experimenting with her style, and she persisted despite the criticism.
After moving to New York City in the 1930s, she found fame. Her electric sound was an overnight sensation in the city’s nightclubs, and audiences fell in love with her voice, swagger, and guitar playing.
For 30 years Sister Rosetta performed to packed venues across the U.S. and then Europe. She recorded more than a dozen albums before she passed away in 1973. Sadly, there is very little video footage of her in existence today, but what is around is worth watching. Her music speaks for itself.
80 years after her first hit, Sister Rosetta Tharpe was finally inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll hall of fame in 2017. This trailblazer, this innovator, this musical genius deserves a prominent place in our history books and full credit for her contributions to the evolution of music. We see you Sister, thank you for bringing the world Rock ‘n’ Roll.
Links for Learning:
Sister Rosetta Tharpe – Hall of Fame