Discovered this thanks to Alan Cross and I recommend you check him out too. Lotsa great music history tidbits over there, but March 20, 1915 (two days ago from when i type these words) was the one hundredth birthday of Sister Rosetta Tharpe, who many historians of rock and roll attribute as being the godmother of rock and roll. She came from humble southern roots, and performed for congregations and her Christian god around the country growing up as a musician, singer, and charming personality. She’s the first woman known to pick up a steel guitar and rock it like no one else before. Every rock n roll musician from Elvis Presley to Warren Zevon to Adam Levine owe their careers and their lives to this woman’s groundbreaking urban gospel sound. I would argue she’s not merely the mother of rock and roll but also its midwife. She delivered rock and roll from its roots to the mainstream world. I may respectfully disagree with her beliefs, but her effect on modern music is evident, and I like her style. The woman could play an electric guitar like she meant to set the devil himself on fire. I feel she believed she did just that.
Rosetta Tharpe was born 100 years ago today—March 20, 1915, twenty years before Elvis, a decade before Chuck Berry. And she could play the rock and roll guitar better than anyone, before anyone.
Now, rock and roll has a lot of parents. Any movement so big in popular music isn’t just invented by one person. But if anybody can claim the title of Mother of Rock and Roll, it would be Sister Rosetta Tharpe. Coming out of the gospel world, she was willing to cross over into playing for secular audiences, and more importantly, she just knew how to wield the axe in a way that is uncannily modern.
“She had a major impact on artists like Elvis Presley,” her biographer Gayle Wald told a documentary film crew. “When you see Elvis Presley singing songs early in his career, I think you [should] imagine, he is channeling Rosetta Tharpe. It’s not…
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