Sister Tharpe

    February 19, 2022

    STEADY, by Dan Rather.

    “Sister Rosetta Tharpe was a trailblazer, a virtuoso on the electric guitar who influenced both Chuck Berry and Elvis Presley. Born in rural Arkansas, Tharpe was raised in the Pentecostal Church. Gospel music was her foundation and she became a superstar in that genre.

    But Tharpe was an original who couldn’t be confined by any one musical style. And in doing so, she helped define a new music. Tharpe is often called the “Godmother of Rock and Roll.”

    Tharpe was a celebrity throughout the 1940s, 50s, and into the 1960s, even as she faced the racial animosities and struggle of segregated America. She also endured gossiping about her sexuality. Eventually, Tharpe’s star faded. She died after a stroke in 1973 at the age of 58.

    When people talk about the origins of rock and roll, Tharpe’s name is far too rarely mentioned. When people debate who were some of the greatest guitarists of all time, Tharpe is almost always overlooked. Well we can start to change that today, and hopefully smile a bit, by basking in the joy of this uniquely talented musician.

    In 2018, Tharpe was inducted posthumously to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which tells her story like this:

    In the fall of 1938, when she stepped out onto the storied stage of the Cotton Club, Rosetta Tharpe did what no performer sprung from the rich musical traditions of black Pentecostalism had ever previously dared, or perhaps even imagined. She presented the music of her church to a predominantly white audience in search of Saturday-night diversion, not Sunday-morning deliverance.”

    Thank you, Dan Rather, for this Saturday smile. :)

    Sister Rosetta Tharpe, 1960.

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