Kate Streader in Beat:
Sister Rosetta Tharpe is a name that – despite her recent induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2017 – is still widely unknown considering the invaluable influence she had on the generations of rock’n’roll acts which followed in her wake.
When we think of rock’n’roll in a historical sense, we think of men like Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Johnny Cash and Chuck Berry as getting the ball rolling, and later the likes of all-male bands such as The Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin cementing the force of the genre which has echoed through the generations since.
However, it was Sister Rosetta Tharpe who inspired the men we associate as revolutionising the music scene and birthing rock’n’roll.
Born in 1915 in Cotton Plant, Arkansas, Sister Rosetta Tharpe – born Rosetta Nubin – began playing guitar at the age of four before progressing to performing alongside her mother’s evangelist group The Church of God and Christ in churches across the South two years later.
Though these beginnings formed the foundations for the role she would eventually play in transforming the sounds of many iconic artists come, it was her move to Chicago which served as the most influential factor in Tharpe’s sound.
The urban environment and its rich musical culture influenced the young prodigy who would soon follow her musical ambitions across the country again, this time relocating to New York City to perform by the time she reached 20.