Sister Rosetta Tharpe

Sister Rosetta Tharpe (March 20, 1915 – October 9, 1973) was an American singer, songwriter, guitarist, and recording artist. She attained popularity in the 1930s and 1940s with her gospel recordings, characterized by a unique mixture of spiritual lyrics and rhythmic accompaniment that was a precursor of rock and roll. She was the first great recording star of gospel music and among the first gospel musicians to appeal to rhythm-and-blues and rock-and-roll audiences, later being referred to as "the original soul sister" and "the Godmother of rock and roll". She influenced early rock-and-roll musicians, including Little Richard, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis.

Tharpe was a pioneer in her guitar technique; she was among the first popular recording artists to use heavy distortion on her electric guitar, presaging the rise of electric blues. Her guitar playing technique had a profound influence on the development of British blues in the 1960s; in particular a European tour with Muddy Waters in 1964 with a stop in Manchester on 7 May is cited by prominent British guitarists such as Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Keith Richards.

Willing to cross the line between sacred and secular by performing her music of "light" in the "darkness" of nightclubs and concert halls with big bands behind her, Tharpe pushed spiritual music into the mainstream and helped pioneer the rise of pop-gospel, beginning in 1938 with the recording "Rock Me" and with her 1939 hit "This Train". Her unique music left a lasting mark on more conventional gospel artists such as Ira Tucker, Sr., of the Dixie Hummingbirds. While she offended some conservative churchgoers with her forays into the pop world, she never left gospel music.

Tharpe's 1944 release "Down by the Riverside" was selected for the National Recording Registry of the U.S. Library of Congress in 2004, which noted that it "captures her spirited guitar playing and unique vocal style, demonstrating clearly her influence on early rhythm-and-blues performers" and cited her influence on "many gospel, jazz, and rock artists". ("Down by the Riverside" was recorded by Tharpe on December 2, 1948, in New York City, and issued as Decca single 48106.) Her 1945 hit "Strange Things Happening Every Day", recorded in late 1944, featured Tharpe's vocals and electric guitar, with Sammy Price (piano), bass and drums. It was the first gospel record to cross over, hitting no. 2 on the Billboard "race records" chart, the term then used for what later became the R&B chart, in April 1945. The recording has been cited as a precursor of rock and roll. On December 13, 2017, Tharpe was chosen for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as an Early Influence.

Birth and Death Data: Born March 20th, 1915 (Cotton Plant), Died October 9th, 1973 (Philadelphia)

Date Range of DAHR Recordings: 1938 - 1956

Roles Represented in DAHR: vocalist, guitar

Recordings (Results 1-25 of 170 records)

Company Matrix No. Size First Recording Date Title Primary Performer Description Role Audio
Decca 64727 10-in. 10/31/1938 Rock me Sister Rosetta Tharpe vocalist, instrumentalist, guitar  
Decca 64728 10-in. 10/31/1938 That's all Sister Rosetta Tharpe vocalist, instrumentalist, guitar  
Decca 64729 10-in. 10/31/1938 My man and I Sister Rosetta Tharpe vocalist, instrumentalist, guitar  
Decca 64730 10-in. 10/31/1938 The lonesome road Sister Rosetta Tharpe vocalist, instrumentalist, guitar  
Decca 64881 10-in. 1/10/1939 Bring back those happy days Sister Rosetta Tharpe vocalist, instrumentalist, guitar  
Decca 64882 10-in. 1/10/1939 This train Sister Rosetta Tharpe vocalist, instrumentalist, guitar  
Decca 64883 10-in. 1/10/1939 I looked down the line and I wondered Sister Rosetta Tharpe vocalist, instrumentalist, guitar  
Decca 64884 10-in. 1/10/1939 God don't like it Sister Rosetta Tharpe vocalist, instrumentalist, guitar  
Decca 64885 10-in. 1/10/1939 Beams of heaven Sister Rosetta Tharpe vocalist, instrumentalist, guitar  
Decca 64886 10-in. 1/10/1939 Saviour don't pass me by Sister Rosetta Tharpe vocalist, instrumentalist, guitar  
Decca 68815 10-in. 3/13/1941 End of my journey Sister Rosetta Tharpe vocalist, instrumentalist, guitar  
Decca 68816 10-in. 3/13/1941 Sit down Sister Rosetta Tharpe vocalist, instrumentalist, guitar  
Decca 68817 10-in. 3/13/1941 There is something within me Sister Rosetta Tharpe vocalist, instrumentalist, guitar  
Decca 68818 10-in. 3/13/1941 Stand by me Sister Rosetta Tharpe vocalist, instrumentalist, guitar  
Decca 69437 10-in. 6/27/1941 Trouble in mind Lucky Millinder Orchestra vocalist  
Decca 69440 10-in. 6/27/1941 Rock, Daniel-1 Lucky Millinder Orchestra vocalist, instrumentalist, guitar  
Decca 69441 10-in. 6/27/1941 That's all Lucky Millinder Orchestra vocalist  
Decca 69707 10-in. 9/5/1941 Shout, sister, shout Lucky Millinder Orchestra vocalist  
Decca 69709 10-in. 9/5/1941 Rock me Lucky Millinder Orchestra vocalist  
Decca 69910 10-in. 11/6/1941 That's all Lucky Millinder Orchestra vocalist  
Decca 69980 10-in. 12/1/1941 Just a closer walk with Thee Sister Rosetta Tharpe vocalist, instrumentalist, guitar  
Decca 69981 10-in. 12/1/1941 Precious Lord, hold my hand Sister Rosetta Tharpe vocalist, instrumentalist, guitar  
Decca 69982 10-in. 12/1/1941 I'm in His care Sister Rosetta Tharpe vocalist, instrumentalist, guitar  
Decca 69983 10-in. 12/1/1941 Nobody's fault but mine Sister Rosetta Tharpe vocalist, instrumentalist, guitar  
Decca 70345 10-in. 2/18/1942 I want a tall skinny Papa Lucky Millinder Orchestra vocalist  
(Results 1-25 of 170 records)

Citation

Discography of American Historical Recordings, s.v. "Tharpe, Sister Rosetta," accessed November 24, 2020, https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/210105.

Tharpe, Sister Rosetta. (2020). In Discography of American Historical Recordings. Retrieved November 24, 2020, from https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/210105.

"Tharpe, Sister Rosetta." Discography of American Historical Recordings. UC Santa Barbara Library, 2020. Web. 24 November 2020.

DAHR Persistent Identifier

URI: https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/210105

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