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Sister Rosetta Tharpe

sIstER RosettA TharPe




Brittany Howard (Alabama Shakes)


Early Influences

Sister Rosetta was the first guitar heroine of rock & roll.

Her heartfelt gospel folksiness gave way to her roaring mastery of her trusty Gibson Les Paul Custom, which she wielded on a level that rivaled the best of her male contemporaries.

Sister Rosetta Tharpe

Sister Rosetta Tharpe


By Gayle Wald

In the fall of 1938, when she stepped out onto the storied stage of the Cotton Club, Rosetta Tharpe did what no performer sprung from the rich musical traditions of black Pentecostalism had ever previously dared, or perhaps even imagined.

She presented the music of her church to a predominantly white audience in search of Saturday-night diversion, not Sunday-morning deliverance. Within weeks, audience enthusiasm for the “hymn-swinging,” guitar-slinging “evangelist” had earned her second billing to headliner Cab Calloway.

Notable engagements at other legendary New York venues – the Paramount (with Count Basie), the Apollo (with Fats Waller, Lionel Hampton, and others), and Carnegie Hall (at the historic “From Spirituals to Swing” concert) – quickly followed.

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Class of 2018
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