Sister Rosetta Tharpe: Biography About A Forgotten Gospel Star And Rock-And-Roll Forerunner

Sister Rosetta Tharpe

34 years after her death there’s finally a biography about Sister Rosetta Tharpe. It’s called Shout, Sister, Shout!: The Untold Story of Rock-and-Roll Trailblazer Sister Rosetta Tharpe. Sister Rosetta Tharpe (1915 – 1973) was a great Gospel and Rhythm and Blues singer and an innovative guitarist. Her guitar style influenced Chuck Berry and her animated style of singing was picked up by Little Richard. She started her career in Pentecostal churches, performed with Lucky Millinder & His Orchestra, played the Cotton Club, the Apollo Theater, Carnegie Hall, and the Grand Ole Opry. All the same, her name has been forgotten for many years.

Sister Rosetta Tharpe was not only a Gospel star, a guitar virtuoso, and a forerunner of Rock and Roll. She also was a dazzling personality. As a successful black musician and business woman who loved men and women, she definitively was ahead of her time. And like so many Gospel singers she was caught between religious and worldly music. Singing worldly music meant making more money and more fame, but losing the church audiences and having a guilty conscience. In the first two decades of her career Sister Rosetta Tharpe oscillated between worldly and religious music. Then, in the late fifties and through the sixties, she concentrated on Gospel again.

Book Cover Sister Rosetta Tharpe BiographyGayle F. Wald wrote the biography. She’s an professor of English. Her academic background shines through, she relies on the facts and doesn’t get lost in speculations. She interviewed dozens of people who knew Sister Rosetta Tharpe. Wald doesn’t hide conflicting memories of the interviewees. She writes straight and unagitated. It’s a sober biography that gives plain information. Where the facts are concerned, the soberness is appropriate. Unfortunately the soberness also shows in the scarce number of pictures and the rudimentary discography.

CD Cover Sister Rosetta TharpeRecommended Sister Rosetta Tharpe CD: The Gospel of Blues gives a good overview of Rosetta Tharpe’s music from 1938 – 1948.

Interesting reading: Article about Sister Rosetta Tharpe on East Bay Express.

Elvis Presley Sings Gospel

Cover Elvis Presley “Amazing Grace”

You don’t have to be a believer to love the gospel recordings of Elvis Presley. If you’re looking for the ideal CD for Christmas you may want to consider his gospel collection «Amazing Grace – His Greatest Sacred Performances». It’s a pleasure to hear Elvis sing together with great vocal groups like The Jordanaires, The Imperials Quartet, The Sweet Inspirations and wonderful singers like Millie Kirkham and J.D. Sumner.

Most tunes are tastefully arranged and performed, the songs from the fifties are mostly acoustically accompanied and don’t have drums. The songs from the sixties and seventies are more stirring. Especially the songs recorded in the seventies make you wanna jump up and dance. For the seventies recordings Elvis was backed by fine musicians who knew how to groove. Among others there were James Burton and Chip Young on guitar, on electric bass Norbert Putnam, and on drums Ron Tutt.

«Amazing Grace – His Greatest Sacred Performances» is a 2-disc set and presents 55 songs from 1957 to 1974. It already came out in 1994, but because it’s a real classic it’s worth to take a look at it again. The CDs comes with a detailed booklet which gives you a lot of background information.