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Sister Rosetta Tharpe (March 20, 1915 – October 9, 1973) was an American singer, guitarist, and songwriter. In the thirties and forties of the twentieth century Tharpe was known for her unique interpretation of gospel music; they gave this a unique touch by the text by combining spirituals with a rhythmic (rock) guidance. [1[2[3.

Rosetta dared the line between "the Holy" and "profane" break; She spent her interpretations of spirituals performed in night clubs as well as in the Church. Tharpe is then also affect the rise of the pop-gospel music. [1even though shocked Sister Rosetta with her trips to the pop music some of the more conservative church-goers, the gospel music she has never left.

With her music she had influence on rock 'n' roll artists like Little RichardJohnny CashElvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis[4]. Rightly, therefore, is the title of a BBC documentary about her career: "The Godmother of Rock n ' Roll: Sister Rosetta Tharpe"[5.


[hide]*1 youth and early career

Youth and early career[Edit]Edit

She was born Rosetta Nubin in Cotton Plant, Arkansas, United States. Her parents, Katie Bell Nubin and Willis Atkins, were once cotton pickers. About her father is little known, but we know he sang. Mother, Katie Bell Nubin Tharpes, was a singer, played mandolin and was preacher for the Church of God in Christ, a denomination started by Charles Mason in 1894. In this church was rhythmic musical expression, dancing and preaching by women encouraged. With the support of her mother starts from the age of four with Tharpe singing and playing guitar. If they are travelling, Tharpe, who did six is "Little Rosetta Nubin, the singing and guitar playing miracle"[2is called, along with her mother by the American South;Here they give performances that are part sermon, part gospel concert. [6[1]

In the middle of the 1920s Chicago Tharpe and her mother choose as home town. They occur on the Church of God in Christ, located on 40th Street, and travel to Church conventions in the country. Tharpe acquires considerable attention in this way as a musical child prodigy. She stands out in a time when black female guitarists are rare. In 1934, Rosetta is 19, she married Thomas Thorpe, a priest of the Church of God in Christ, a man who often went with Rosetta and her mother during performances. Even though the marriage lasted only briefly, Rosetta will a modified version of his name: Sister Rosetta Tharpe on stage name, a name that they will continue to use the rest of her career. Tharpe leaves her husband In 1938 and she moves to New York, along with her mother. [6]


31 October 1938, Rosetta Tharpe is 23, takes four singles for Decca Records, with in the background "Lucky" Millinder's jazz orchestra[3]. The first gospel songs ever recorded by Decca, "Rock Me," "that's All," "My Man and I" and "The Lonesome Road", are immediately a hit. Tharpe is the first commercially successful gospel artist. [6]

She became more famous after the performances with jazz artist Cab Calloway in the Cotton Club in October 1938 and acting with John Hammond in Carnegie Hall on 23 december 1938. These performances were for various reasons both controversial as revolutionary. Staging of gospel music for a secular nightclub audience and together with blues and jazz musicians and dancers was highly unusual. In conservative religious circles was also looked down on the fact that a woman also made guitar music and that they did in such a "worldly" stages. As a result, hit Tharpe ever out of favor of groups within the gospel music. [6[5]

It is said that Tharpe had little influence on what they was recorded while under contract with Millinder. As she sings the song "Tall Skinny Papa", a little more salacious song that has to do with spirituality. It was a big hit. [5after this, will they get back to the gospel. In the 1940s a lot with "The Dixie Hummingbirds Rosetta performs" as supporting act and, before that, shocking, with the Jordanaires vocal group "The white male"[5.

The song "Strange Things Happening Every Day" from 1944, which they recorded with Sammy Price was the first gospel record "crossover" went (in more than one chart was recorded); It earned in april 1945 the second place on the list, the chart race records-which later would be called the R & B list[7][1.

After the Second World War link record company Decca Tharpe to Marie Knight. In their hit "Up Above My Head" takes care of Knight the second voice in this traditional call and response-composition. For some years the two women, who also get a relationship, a success within the gospel circuit. As Knights mother dies in a fire, Rosetta goes on alone. If publicity stunt marries Rosetta in 1951 with Russell Morrison, standing next to her husband would be her manager. 25,000 people come off on the public wedding in the "Griffith Stadium" in Washington, that is followed by action. [5]

Rosetta's career hits in the slop, according to Anthony Heilbut to renew because they do not know: she is still in the 1950s on with songs they also sang in the 1930s; Rosetta is a "oldies act" become. With husband Russell and her mother moves Rosetta to a small house in Philadelphia. [5then, new success. In 1957, jazz trombonist Chris Barber Tharpe booked by for a tour of a month by the United Kingdom. It is a success.Tharpe finds new fans in Europe. Rosetta has been touring through Europe In 1964 with the "Blues and Gospel Caravan", including Muddy Waters and Otis Spann, Ransom Knowling, Little Willie Smith, Reverend Gary Davis, Cousin JoeSonny Terry and Brownie McGhee. [5]


In 1970 gets Tharpe, who suffers from diabetes, stroke and hits a leg lost. In 1973, after a new stroke, deceased Sister Rosetta. [5she is buried on "Northwood Cemetery" in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States. [8]


  • Sister Rosetta Tharpe is in 2007 included in the Blues Hall of Fame.
  • On 15 July 1998, the United States Postal Service a 32-cent postage stamp with Sister Rosetta[9.
  • January 11, has been named "Sister Rosetta Tharpe Day" in Pennsylvania[5.
  • 35 years after her death in 2008 a headstone placed, partly financed by a benefit concert[10.
  • Down By The Riverside (1948) in 2004 was included in the National Recording Registry, on the grounds that Tharpe many gospel, jazz and rock musicians has affected, with the song "Down by the Riverside" Tharpes unique voice and vibrant guitar playing well and so its influence on early rhythm-and-blues artists[11.

Musical influence[Edit]Edit

  • Little Richard called Sister Rosetta his favorite artist as a child. In 1945 heard Rosetta, right before a concert at the "Macon City Auditorium", Richard two of her gospel sing songs. During the concert invites Rosetta Richard from singing along on stage; After that, they pay him for this[12Jerry Lee Lewis Tharpe labelled as rock-'n-roll artist and Elvis Presley loved Sister Rosetta[6.
  • Johnny Cash called Rosetta his favorite artist[4.
  • Tina Turner mentions Sister Rosetta, in addition to Mahalia Jackson, as one of her first musical inspiration sources[13.
  • The French film Amélie contains a scene in which the neighbor of the main character mesmerized look at a performance of "Up Above My Head" by Tharpe.

Recent recordings:[Edit]Edit

  • British band Alabama 3 took a own version on from "Up Above My Head" and named a song on their debut album "Exile on Coldharbour" "Sister Rosetta".
  • The English indie rock band The Noisettes put the song "Sister Rosetta (Capture the Spirit)" on their album "what's the Time Mr. Wolf?" from 2007.
  • In 2007 Alison Krauss and Robert Plant the song "Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us" on, written by Sam Phil lips, which in 2008 also took up.
  • Gospel singer Michelle Shocked opens its 2007 "live album ToHeavenURide" with the song "Strange Things Happening Every Day".
  • In 2003 a tribute album came out: "Shout, Sister, Shout: A Tribute to Sister Rosetta Tharpe".



  • The Lonesome Road, Decca 224, (1941)
  • Blessed Assurance, (1951)
  • Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Russell Morrison Wedding Ceremony Or, DeccaDA-903, (1951)
  • Gospel Train, (1956)
  • Famous Negro Spirituals and Gospel Songs, (1957)
  • Sister Rosetta Tharpe, MGM E3821, (1959)
  • Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Omega, OSL31 (1960)
  • Gospels In Rhythm, (1960)
  • Live in 1960, (1960)
  • The Gospel Truth with the Bally Jenkins Singers, (1961)
  • Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Crown LP5236, (1961)
  • Sister On Tour, (1962)
  • Live In Paris , (1964)
  • Live at the Hot Club de France, (1966)
  • Sister Rosetta Tharpe and the Hot Negro Gospel Gospel Tabernacle Choir and Players, (1967)
  • Precious Memories, Savoy 14214, (1968)
  • Singing In My Soul, Savoy 14224, (1969)

The complete oeuvre of Sister Rosetta Tharpe with recordings to 1961 is issued as a sevenfold cd-box by the French label Frémeaux & Associés.

Hitsingels (United States)[Edit]Edit

Year Single Chart Positions (Us)
Hot R & B/Hip-Hop Songs [14]
1945 "[[Strange Things Happening Every Day" 2
1948 "Precious Memories (hymn) |Precious Memories " 13
"Up Above My Head, I Hear Music In The Air" 6
1949 "Silent Night (Christmas Hymn)" 6

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