Sister Rosetta Tharpe: Rock and Roll’s First Great Guitarist

It is really difficult to watch one clip of Sister Rosetta Tharpe. Try it. The best advice is either to not watch any, or set aside about a half hour.

Tharpe was both a  big band and religious singer. Her electric guitar playing was amazing considering the era and the fact that she was a woman playing what probably was considered to be a man’s instrument. (Check out what she does at the 1:29 mark of the clip above). She is said to have influenced Johnny Cash, Elvis, Chuck Berry and others. Vocally, she seems to borrow from the Rev. Gary Davis, or vice versa.

Here are Down by the Riverside, Didn’t it Rain, Trouble in Mind and This Train. Tharpe also was backed by the Chicago Blues All Stars and Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee. Finally, here is an unnamed piece.

Here is a bio and an appreciation in the The Guardian, an English site.

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