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Gospel/Spiritual/Religious

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, Trouble in Mind and This Train. Tharpe also was backed by the Chicago Blues All Stars. Finally, here is an unnamed piece.

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

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Reading Music

The stories of the great bands and musicians are fascinating. Musicians as a group are brilliant, but often troubled. The combination of creativity and drama makes for great reading.

Here are some books to check out.

Duke Ellington brought class, sophistication and style to jazz which, until that point, was proudly unpolished and raucous. His story is profound. The author, Terry Teachout, also wrote "Pops," the acclaimed bio of Louis Armstrong. Click here or on the image.

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What else is there to say? Here is the story behind every song written by The Beatles. Click here or on the image.

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The Grateful Dead don't get enough credit for the profound nature of its lyrics. Many of the band's songs are driven by a deep and literate Americana ("I'm Uncle Sam/That's who I am/Been hidin' out/In a rock and roll band" and "Majordomo Billy Bojangles/Sit down and have a drink with me/What's this about Alabama/Keeps comin' back to me?").

David Dodd's exhaustive study tells the story, song by song. Click here or on the image.

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