As an American singer and songwriter, Rosetta Tharpe left a unique legacy. Some say she was integral to the foundation of Rock and Roll! Her Gospel songs attained popularity in the 30’s and 40’s and she was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2018. Pop Gospel and the electric guitar were her claim to fame, but she was definitely the Queen of early Rock and Roll.
History of Rosetta Tharpe
Rosetta’s mother (a preacher for the Church of God in Christ) was a big influence in her early life, and her church encouraged musical expression and dancing in praise. Mastering the guitar at the age of six, Rosetta joined her mother in a travelling evangelical troupe, singing and playing her guitar with her mother.
She recorded her first songs in 1938, backed by Lucky Millinder’s Jazz Orchestra and her first Gospel songs were instant hits. She was an overnight sensation and her music went on to influence many later singers, such as Elvis, Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis. As a mix of Gospel and secular music, many people were shocked by her music. As a black female guitar player and a crossover artist, she had to fight against gender and racial bias. Over the years her Gospel audience became disillusioned, but she still packed stadiums with her music.
She toured Europe in the 60’s, but suffered a stroke in 1970, passing away in 1973 following another stroke.
Rosetta Tharpe songs you might know
- Strange Things Happening Every Day
- Rock Me
- That’s All
- Didn’t It Rain
- Trouble In Mind
- Precious Memories
- Silent Night
- Up Above My Head, I Hear Music In The Air
- Down By The Riverside
- Singing In My Soul
Well-known artists who have sung with Rosetta Tharpe
Over the years, Rosetta sang with many Gospel and secular singers, including Cab Calloway, Sammy Price (pianist), the Dixie Hummingbirds (Gospel quartet), Marie Knight, the Twilight Sisters (renamed the rosettes), Muddy Waters, Otis Spann and many others.