Sister Rosetta Tharpe

Sister Rosetta Tharpe was born Rosetta Nubin in Cotton Plant, Arkansas, March 20, 1915. She grew up singing in The Church Of God In Christ, picked up a guitar somewhere along the way and went on to become one of the most popular gospel singers of the 40’s, (and the first to attempt to “cross over” joining the Lucky Millinder Orchestra with whom she cut four sides in 1948). She cut a series of amazing discs for Decca, many with Sammy Price on piano, including my favorite– Strange Things Happen Every Day. She was a flamboyant figure, fond of feathered boas and exotic hats, and she played a style of guitar that we, today, recognize as rock’n’roll (as evidenced by the clips here, she adhered to Jim Dickinson’s theory that tuning was a “decadent and European” concept).
After leaving Decca she recorded some good sides for Savoy (including amazing duets with with Marie Knight who just passed away) and Mercury’s Wing subsidiary, among other labels, and after her popularity waned, found a second career in Europe where she was wildly popular in the sixties. Diabetes eventually destroyed her health. She had a stroke in 1970, and one of her legs had to be amputated. She died in 1973 in her adopted hometown of Philadelphia. Many early rockers including most notably Carl Perkins have sited her guitar playing as a primary influence on early rock’n’roll. These clips are really wonderful, out of tune guitar and all….

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