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Sister Rosetta Tharpe


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Cotton Plant AR, United States (1915 – 1973)

“Sister” Rosetta Tharpe (1915–1973) was a pioneering U.S. Gospel singer and songwriter who attained great popularity in the 1930s and 1940s with a unique mixture of spiritual lyrics and early rock accompaniment. She became the first great recording star of Gospel music, first surfacing on the pop charts in 1939 with “This Train”, her version of the traditional gospel standard.

Born Rosetta Nubin on the 20th March 1915 in Cotton Plant, Arkansas, she began performing at age four, billed as “Little Rosetta Nubin, the singing and guitar playing miracle”, accompanying her mother, Church of God in Christ (COGIC) evangelist Katie Bell Nubin, who played mandolin and preached at tent revivals throughout the Southern U.S.A. Exposed to both blues and jazz both in the South and after her family moved to Chicago in the late 1920s, she played blues and jazz in private, while performing gospel music in public settings. Her unique style reflected those secular influences: she bent notes the way that jazz artists did and picked guitar like Memphis Minnie.

Rosetta also crossed over to secular music in other ways. After marrying COGIC preacher Thomas Thorpe (from which “Tharpe” is a misspelling) in 1934 and moving to New York City, she recorded four sides with Decca Records backed by “Lucky” Millinder’s jazz orchestra. Her records caused an immediate furore: many churchgoers were shocked by the mixture of sacred and secular music, but secular audiences loved them.


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  • Cassandra-Leo

    Ok, how the hell have I never heard of this woman before? Thanks to Cracked for pointing out how much she rocked.

    25 Feb 5:38am Reply
  • benshen11

    insanely good. a true soul queen while rocking out on the guitar like a pro. Where have you been all my life?

    30 Mar 2014 Reply
  • kell_salvador

    This woman's voice is tearing me apart little by little.

    24 Aug 2013 Reply
  • orang_gila

    my tag is Soul to this artist. Not gospel ! :O

    21 Jul 2013 Reply
  • DeJMoreno

    She's a real black queen! Love it!

    12 Aug 2011 Reply
  • KingsAndQueen

    Such a talent! *-* It's a shame nobody ever heard of her, I discovered her because of random profiles and groups :o

    19 Jul 2011 Reply
  • omgface

    love her.

    21 Jun 2011 Reply
  • Gazoline

    17 Mar 2011 Reply
  • happenh

    @ritesofspring, my thoughts exactly, I couldn't believe either that I had never heard of her, she is truly inspirational

    15 Jan 2011 Reply
  • ritesofspring

    I've just discovered her on a BBC4 documentary entitled "The Godmother of Rock & Roll: Sister Rosetta Tharpe". How I've not heard of her before God only knows. A revolutionary, amazing singer and guitar player. Wow!

    14 Jan 2011 Reply
  • Sr_RoX

    down by the riverside

    18 Nov 2010 Reply
  • ShiningStar911

    ♥♪♥♥ Sister Rosetta Tharpe ♥♥♫♥

    2 Sep 2010 Reply
  • placental_fluid

    True proto-.

    9 Jul 2010 Reply
  • pentyharmonium

    The best thing about Sister Rosetta Tharpe is that she is amazingly listenable. Seriously overlooked.

    22 Jan 2010 Reply
  • premack

    Wonderful singer and guitar player. The tribute Shout Sister Shout is made in a sensitive way. When you listen to the songs they are played by modern singer/songwriter, with passion to Sister Rosetta Tharpe. For people interested in the story of Sister Rosetta Tharpe read Shout,Sister,Sister ! by Gayle F. Wald. "The untold story of rock-and-roll trailblazer Sister Rosetta Tharpe. Great book. Keep on Shout,Sister,South.

    25 Jul 2009 Reply
  • rantstheraves

    very very nice

    25 Jul 2009 Reply
  • LondonLouis

    There is an interesting tribute album Shout, Sister, Shout! A Tribute To Sister Rosetta… in which a whole series of well respected contemporary singers pay tribute - Bonnie Raitt, Maria Muldaur, Michelle Shocked and lots of others. Nice to know there is a biography of her.

    1 May 2009 Reply
  • johnca

    There is a biography: Shout, Sister, Shout, by Gayle F. Wald. Just over 80,000 plays on for someone who influenced so many - is there another musician with a higher ratio of importance to obscurity?

    20 Mar 2009 Reply
  • LondonLouis

    Tharps's an exceptionally interesting character. I first became aware of her in a documentary of the roots of the English rock scene, and there was the extraordinary shot of what appeared to be a crazed, guitar playing nun, in front of a chorus of other nuns. This was Tharpe, who came over to London in the 1950s, on her record as a serious, respected pioneer of electric guitar. Going back into her history, you discover that she was a major star in the late 1930s, alternating between gospel and big band material. If I remember right, she was one of only a handful of stars who were recorded during World War 2 specifically for the troops. She attracted 25,000 people to her wedding. I am sure there is a fascinating biography to be written about her (maybe it's been done). She was a pioneer as Black Woman, also in her Gospel/Pop career where she preceded later giants such as Aretha Franklin. I think she ended her career in Europe, where she made an impact. Remarkable woman. Unfashionable?

    29 Jan 2009 Reply
  • CompSimpCarl

    incredulous voice.

    6 Dec 2008 Reply
  • All 28 shouts