On Friday, Febuary 22, PBS will air a special documentary on Sister Rosetta Tharpe titled "The Godmother of Rock and Roll". So in honor of this ocasion, I have decided that I would explain to everyone reading this why I think that Sister Rosetta Tharpe may in fact be the most influential, if not one of the greatest, musicians to have ever lived.
For those of you who don't already know, Sister Rosetta Tharpe was a famous American Gospel singer and guitarist from around the 30s and 40s. She broke new ground in the field of music by combining gospel songs and African-American Spirituals and turning them into songs with an R&B and up-tembo beat to it. She crossed secular and sarcred lines in her music with her lirics spreading an uplifiting gospel message and her music comming from the world of a new genre forming called "Rock", all the while performing in concerthalls and nightclubs; which offened many churchgoers at the time. Her voice was like nothing anyone else had ever heard before, with the power and volume of a preacher, the smoothness of a radio crooner, and the soul and passion that could only be given by a woman known as "The Original Soul Sister". She also was, in my opinion, on of the greatest guitarists of all time, becoming one of the first artists to try and incorportate the guitar solo as a main aspect of her music. She tranformed what many originally concidered a blues and country instrument, and adapted and transformed it into become a main aspect of Rock and Roll. She used the picking skills of Delta Blues musicians and incorporated that into creating guitar riffs for gospel and soul songs, paving the way for the guitar to be a main feature in almost every genre of popular music today, all this while being one of the few women in music history to actually be concidered a "Guitar Legend". Sadly, she died at the relatively young age of 58 due to diabetes in 1973 and most people today don't know who she is or how she influenced every song on the radio today.
Though people may not know her today, she still has given life to many different genres of music, most notably Rock and Roll. Her powerful singing, guitar playing, and showmanship on the stage was a major influence on major Rock Stars such as Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Johnny Cash, Issac Hayes and Aretha Franklin; even Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard both declared that she was their favorite singer of all time. Johnny Cash even metioned her as a major influence on him growing up during his Induction speech at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, to which she is shockingly not a member of. She has been honored by the hall of fames for Gospel and Blues, given her own stamp, and her song "Down By The Riverside" was selected by the Library of Congress to be apart of it's National Recording Regestry, stating the her fast picking skills powerful singing on the record has inspired many artists in the genres of Blues, Jazz, R&B, Gospel, and of course Rock and Roll.
So as you can see due to her amazing skills as a singer and guitarists, and her ability to be able to change and combine different styles of music into her own genre that would later be cited as a main influence on Rock and Roll, Sister Rosetta Tharpe is in my mind the greatest and most influential music artist of all time. Rock on Sister, Rock On!
Robert Blum (DJ BOB-B-BEE): Host of 'Rock Before the Clock'