Sister Rosetta Tharpe

Sister Rosetta Tharpe

Sister Rosetta Tharpe

Sister Rosetta Tharpe, often referred to as the ‘Godmother of Rock and Roll’ was born and raised in America. Singer, songwriter, guitar player and recording artist, she was a pioneer of the blues attaining great popularity in the 1930s and 40s. Originally she made gospel recordings that were unique with their mixture of spiritual lyrics and early rock accompaniment. She became known as ‘the original soul sister’.

Later, many rock n  roll artists such as Little Richard, Johnny Cash, Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis cited Rosetta Tharpe as an early influence. She made her first recording on October 31, 1938 while only 23, which were the first songs to be recorded by Decca. Rock Me, That’s All, My Man and I and The Lonesome Road. All became instant hits!

Her records caused an immediate furor, with many churchgoers shocked by the mixture of gospel-based lyrics and secular-sounding music but, secular audiences loved them.

In the spring of 1964, with the popularity of the blues in Europe, Sister Rosetta Tharpe was part of the Blues and Gospel Caravan with Muddy Waters, Otis Spann, Ransom Knowling, Little Willie Smith, Reverend Gary Davis, Cousin Joe, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee. In May, the concert was recorded in the UK at a disused railway station at Wilbraham Road, Manchester with the performers on one platform while the audience watched from the opposite platform and is saved for eternity on the likes of youtube.

Her unique style of guitar playing blended urban blues with traditional folk arrangements and incorporated a swing sound that is a clear precursor of rock and roll. Little Richard referred to her as his favourite singer when he was a child, as did Johnny Cash. She later invited Little Richard on stage to sing, which turned out to be his first public performance outside of church.

In the UK she was held in high esteem by the jazz-blues singer George Melly. Even today, artists such as Sean Michael acknowledge her influence on his music.

She went home on October 9th, 1973 and is buriedd in Northwood Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA.

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