Sister Rosetta Tharpe: The Godmother of Rock and Roll

About the Film

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.