She was Johnny Cash and Little Richard’s favourite singer when they were kids.
She’d go on to influence Chuck Berry and Elvis and Aretha Franklin and Tina Turner, too. Born Rosetta Nubin to cotton picking parents in Arkansas, she started singing and playing at the age of just 4. By the time she was 6, Rosetta was performing professionally and billed as a “Singing and guitar playing miracle”.
Rosetta Tharpe as she became known performed alongside Cab Calloway in Harlem at the Cotton Club and in John Hammond’s “Spirituals to Swing” concert at Carnegie all. And this was in the 1930’s when no female but her could be found doing gospel music and playing guitar in nightclubs. She’d be shunned by the unenlightened and embraced by the open-minded.
In the spring of 1964, when blues had become all the rage in Europe, she toured alongside Muddy Waters among others.
This performance below was recorded by Granada Television at an old railway station in Manchester England.
If it’s not the coolest thing you’ve seen all week, you’ve been seeing some pretty cool things! Learn lots more about Sister Rosetta Tharpe, from our friends at Gibson, here.