Born in Cotton Plant, Arkansas in 1915, Sister Rosetta Tharpe (Rosetta Nubin Tharpe) is considered the Godmother of rock and soul, influencing musicians like Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, and countless others. She merged the sacred and the secular both lyrically and stylistically, creating a new style of playing that was full of passion.
Nubin’s guitar style was influenced by her mother’s mandolin playing, pianist Arizona Dranes, and composer Florence Price, with whom Rosetta studied in Cotton Plant. She also sang the popular hymns of the day, including the compositions of bluesman turned gospel musician, Thomas A. Dorsey. Indeed, elements of blues are readily apparent in Nubin’s guitar styling. Later, Nubin’s music would be influenced by her work with jazz greats Lucky Milliner and Cab Calloway.
A new film from PBS American Masters series will examine her life and influnce. From PBS:
The film features archival performances and new interviews with musicians, producers and friends, including Joe Boyd, tour manager of the 1964 American Folk, Blues and Gospel Caravan; Howard Carol of gospel group The Dixie Hummingbirds, which toured frequently with Tharpe; Anthony Heilbut, gospel record producer and writer; life-long friend Roxie Moore; Ira Tucker, Jr., son of The Dixie Hummingbirds’ Ira Tucker, Sr.; Tharpe biographer Gayle Wald; and others.