Sister Rosetta Tharpe

American Masters Who Shaped Black History

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Sister Rosetta Tharpe: The Godmother of Rock and Roll

Full Episode

The life, music and influence of African-American gospel singer and guitar virtuoso Sister Rosetta Tharpe. From writer, producer and director Mick Csaky.

Sister Rosetta Tharpe: The Godmother of Rock and Roll

Sister Rosetta Live! 1964: ‘Didn’t it Rain’

The scene is England in 1964. You hear the band playing when Sister Rosetta Tharpe pulls up on a horse drawn carriage to a make-shift stage at an abandoned railroad station. It’s a rainy day and Sister Rosetta is in her Sunday overcoat. You can almost hear a train whistle blowing when she belts out “Didn’t it Rain” accompanied by a full-blooded, swaggering electric guitar sound.

Vote Sister Rosetta!

Somehow, someway, Sister Rosetta Tharpe — “The Godmother of Rock and Roll” — is not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. “Like,” “Share” and/or download the poster in this post to start the campaign to put Sister Rosetta in the Hall of Fame.

Sister Rosetta Tharpe: The Godmother of Rock and Roll

Playlist: The One and Only Queen of Hot Gospel

It’s American Masters radio: the other AM on the Spotify dial.

Elvis listened to her. So did Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard and Johnny Cash. And yet, somehow, Sister Rosetta Tharpe — “the original soul sister,” as people used to call her — is more or less a complete unknown today. It’s hard to believe when you hear her sing or play heavy on the electric guitar.

Have yourself a listen to Sister Rosetta on The One and Only Queen of Hot Gospel playlist, curated by the American Masters team.

Sister Rosetta Tharpe: The Godmother of Rock and Roll

1957 Tour

The year Sister Rosetta Tharpe hit the road with Dixieland trombonist Chris Barber and his band.

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.