Sister Rosetta Tharpe: 13 Black Artists Who Inspired Rock
Sister Rosetta Tharpe
Sister Rosetta Tharpe is one of the most influential artists in the development of rock and roll. Sadly, she may not be a household name, but she is one of the original creators of the rock and roll sound. Known as the “Godmother of Rock and Roll,” Sister Rosetta had an incredible stage presence, impressing audiences since the age of four. A thick beautiful woman in a sequin dress and high heels, she sings with a powerful voice as she plays an electric guitar.
Rosetta was an incredibly skilled guitar player with an original rhythm that went on to inspire the rock and roll beat. Often called one of the greatest gospel singers of all time, she would play the guitar as she sings creating a rhythmic gospel sound. However, Sister Rosetta eventually expands her horizons entering the secular world to perform jazz and blues with her gospel. This move seems scandalous to her gospel fans as she plays her blend of music in nightclubs, describing her combination of music as singing darkness and light. In her opinion, she sings to the Lord and white people.
Influence on Other Artist
In the 50s many young artists, including Elvis, would visit black churches to see her and other gospel artists perform. If you listen to Elvis’s early music, her influence is more than evident. The fact that a middle-aged black woman is an idol of young white performers is a credit to her talent. She is so important to rock and roll that Little Richard says she is responsible for his career. Her guitar picking inspired Chuck Berry‘s guitar style, again you can hear it in his music. Jimi Hendrix stated that he just wanted to play like Sister Rosetta. Johnny Cash said she is his favorite singer of all time.
Her popularity started to decline in the late 50s as all of the artists who wanted to play and sing like her became popular to the young generation. However, she was invited to tour Europe in the 60s. They had only seen white artist attempting to capture the R&B sound. Once they saw the original artists perform her career skyrocketed again. Bob Dylan said, “A lot of English guys picked up a guitar after looking at her.” She touched everyone she played for and inspired countless artists with her immense talent. She truly is the Godmother of rock and roll. It is sad that more people do not know about her.