The Original Soul sister of Blues: Sister Rosetta Tharpe

The Original Soul sister of Blues: Sister Rosetta Tharpe

It was on YouTube where I spotted a picture of a beautiful woman in front of a group of Gospel singers with a Gibson SG in front of her. I instantly clicked on the video, and heard the woman play a Rock ‘n Roll guitar riff. She started singing ‘Above My Head, I hear music in the air’. Slowly the Gospel singers started singing along. It was the coolest mix of Gospel and Rock ‘n Roll I ever heard. Soon I started looking for more songs of this great Musician. I discovered the magical repertoire of Sister Rossetta Tharpe.

Inspiration for Rock ‘n Roll Musicians

She was a great musician, a Gospel singer, a Blues shouter and a Rock ‘n Roll guitarist. With her songs Sister Rosetta Tharpe was an early influence on figures such as Little Richard, Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis. Johnny Cash covered her hit “There are Strange Things Happeninh Every Day” on his 1979 Gospel Album A Believer Sings the Truth.

Johnny Cash

Sister Rosetta Tharpe

Rosetta’s greatest hit Jericho

My favorite Sister Rosetta song is the traditional Jericho a well-known African American spiritual. According to Wikipedia The song is believed to have been composed by slaves in the first half of the 19th century. Some references suggest that it was copyrighted by Jay Roberts in 1865. Musicians like Mahalia Jackson and Elvis Presley also recorded a cool version of Jericho. Sister Rosetta Tharpe however took it to a new level. With rhythmic interruptions in the vocals she created a true Rhythm and Blues song. French DJ-Duo C2C inspired by Sister Rosetta remixed her version. C2C showed us that Sister Rosetta would have been a hit-making musician today.

C2C Remix – Jericho

Upbringing and entering music

Sister Rosetta Tharpe was born on March 20th 1915 in Cotton Plant Arkansas, started to sing at her mother’s church concertes at the age of four. During those days Rosetta was called “Little Rosetta Nubin”, ‘the singing and guitar playing miracle’. Despite her religious upbringing she was dedicated to the Blues and jazz. Alongside Lucky Millinders’s jazz band she recorde her first album in New York. The album created quite a stir. The mix of sacred words and secular sounds entered the world like a blast. (ABC of the Blues, ultimate collection, artist: Rosetta Tharpe).

Showmanship and the Folk Blues Caravan

Rosetta Tharpe was a brilliant guitarist playing flashy as a rock star, it was all part of het showmanship. When her career took a dent in the fifties and sixties she was part of the Folk blues revival caravan that toured around Europe. Alongside Muddy Waters, Otis Spann and Cousin Joe. During the early Seventies Sister Rosetta Tharpe had several strokes, after another stroke in 1973 she died in Philadelphia.

“All this new stuff they call rock ’n’ roll, why, I’ve been playing that for years now… Ninety percent of rock-and-roll artists came out of the church, their foundation is the church.”

Sister Rosetta Tharpe in an interview with Daily Mirror in 1957

Photo credit: The Gospel of the Blues – Sister Rosetta Tharpe via photopin (license)
Video credit: Copyright Disclaimer Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for “fair use” for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship,and research.

Sister Rosetta Tharpe: Down by the Riverside

Sister Rosetta Tharpe: That’s All

Sister Rosetta Tharpe & Marie Knight with The Sam Price Trio – Precious Memories

More songs of Sister Rosetta Tharpe on Spotify

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