December 28th, 2012
Sister Rosetta Tharpe
Trailer: The Godmother of Rock & Roll

Southern-born, Chicago-raised and New York-made. She could play the guitar like nobody else… nobody.

Discover the life, music and influence of African-American gospel singer and guitar virtuoso Sister Rosetta Tharpe from writer, producer and director Mick Csaky. During the 1940s-60s, Tharpe introduced the spiritual passion of her gospel music into the secular world of rock ’n’ roll, inspiring some of its greatest stars, including Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Little Richard.

The film features archival performances and new interviews with musicians, producers and friends, including Joe Boyd, tour manager of the 1964 American Folk, Blues and Gospel Caravan; Lottie Henry of The Rosettes; Gordon Stoker of The Jordanaires; Howard Caroll of gospel group The Dixie Hummingbirds, which toured frequently with Tharpe; Anthony Heilbut, gospel record producer and writer; life-long friend Roxie Moore; Ira Tucker, Jr., son of The Dixie Hummingbirds’ Ira Tucker, Sr.; Tharpe biographer Gayle Wald; and others.

Premieres Friday, February 22 at 9pm on PBS (check local listings)

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American Masters is made possible by the support of the National Endowment for the Arts and by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Additional funding is provided by Rosalind P. Walter, Anne Ray Charitable Trust, Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, The Blanche & Irving Laurie Foundation, Rolf and Elizabeth Rosenthal, Jack Rudin, The André and Elizabeth Kertész Foundation, Michael & Helen Schaffer Foundation, and public television viewers.

  • juli

    sister Rosetta, will rock your world!!!!!!

  • Marlee Walker

    No mention of Marie Knight, her singing partner who just passed away about a year and a half ago and released an excellent tribute to Rev. Gary Davis on MC Records called “Let Us Get Together” just about 4 years ago. I hope she’s in the film.

  • Mitch

    Sister Rosetta Tharpe was an amazing performer. Her groove on guitar could be compared to Bo Diddley or Johnny Lee Hooker, yet her voice was as powerful as Mahalia Jackson. This program looks to be extremely enjoyable and educational.

  • Campbell

    Sister Rosetta is the most unknown musician in the pantheon that is American Music. She will blow anyone away. Congrats to PBS for this long overdue Doc.

  • Bob Dalziel

    She ROCKS !!!!!!!!

  • Nick

    Isnt she referenced by John Lennon in the Beatles live Abbey Road roof concert in the song “Get Back”?

  • Rasmus Bollerup

    Will this documentary be available through you’re shop – or how will I be able to watch this in Denmark? I’ve been hoping for a documentary on Sister Rosetta Tharpe for the last decade or more and I absolutly MUST get hands on this on:-)

  • Seymour Hagans

    She is simply awesome. Being a Clevelander. I hope she gets inducted. I will be in line to visit the exhibit. She ROCKS!!!!

  • louis

    Can anybody tell me the title of the last song that we see Sister Rosetta Tharpe preform on this episode? Thanks.

  • Andre

    Yet another fascinating, superbly influential person of the world many of us had never heard of. Until now. Thank you, American Masters!

  • Sheila (Blues City Radio)

    She definitely belongs in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame! Yes, she’s a Gospel Singer, but she’s rock & roll, too.

  • Kelly Ground

    Yes, thank you for highlighting this wonderful artist. Being around Blues for a while, learning as I went… I never heard about her. Yes… thank you!

  • Tim

    Thank you for introducing me to Sister Rosetta Tharpe. Never heard of her until I caught the broadcast and was blown away. What a great talent and a great woman. She seemed really down to earth and not afraid to laugh at herself. My favorite scene/performance was the train platform show in England. Thanks again, keep up the good work AM!

  • Dr. JCollins+

    I enjoyed the video of Sister Rosetta Tharpe so much that i want to obtain a personal copy to send to my mother. We are from the south and actually went to one of her concerts in the 1950s and have loved her since. Thanks so much for the good work and look forward to becoming a member next month.


  • Marisa
  • Ace

    Sister Rosetta Tharpe is a wonderful example of the African-American gospel-blues tradition and of the hundreds of gospel based artists like her that do it for the love of God that we will never hear about on see on a record or tour. I have been to several blues festivals and often, a “local ” church group, as an earlier opening act in the day will blow away the so-called professionals who headline the show.

    I once saw such group three years ago open a festival and the older “grandmother” of the church family (with her young grandson playing the drums), was also playing a white Gibson SG Guitar like Ms. Tharpe and taking no prisoners with her guitar licks………………….Thought of Rosetta right away as soon as I saw her.

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