Brain Pickings

The Godmother of Rock & Roll: Sister Rosetta Tharpe Live in Manchester, 1964

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“I’m singing, oh I’m singing in my soul, when the troubles roll, I sing from morn’ till night, it makes my burdens light…”

Reconstructionist and Literary Jukebox hero Sister Rosetta Tharpe is celebrated as gospel music’s first superstar, the godmother of rock and roll, “the original soul sister.” No better way to celebrate her spirit and legacy than with her legendary, electrifying 1964 live performance of “Didn’t It Rain” at the Manchester train station, complete with her iconic white coat and electric guitar.

Sister Rosetta’s remarkable story unfolds like never before in the 2007 biography Shout, Sister, Shout!: The Untold Story of Rock-and-Roll Trailblazer Sister Rosetta Tharpe (public library). It opens with gospel singer Ira Tucker’s perfect depiction of her spirit:

When you talked about Rosetta Tharpe you talked about a ball of energy. This woman would come out on the stage she’d have people laughing, she’d talk to them in a way that it was almost like she was related to them. And when she finished her act, they were standing. You know, they would love this woman. And she was a lovable person. I mean she was an approachable person. Even though she was a diva too, you know, because she did play the diva role.

Also of note and delight, the 2003 tribute album Shout, Sister, Shout!.

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