SISTER ROSETTA THARPE 🖤
Taken from NPR - Rock 'n' roll was bred between the church and the nightclubs in the soul of a queer black woman in the 1940s named Sister Rosetta Tharpe. She was there before Elvis, Little Richard and Johnny Cash swiveled their hips and strummed their guitars. It was Tharpe, the godmother of rock 'n' roll, who turned this burgeoning musical style into an international sensation
Perhaps it's no surprise that Tharpe was always surrounded by music growing up. Born Rosetta Nubin in Arkansas to Willis Atkins and Katie Bell, Tharpe came from a family of religious singers, cotton pickers and traditional evangelists. She picked up the guitar at four years old, and at the age of six she accompanied her mother to perform with a travelling evangelist troupe in churches around the South. By the mid-1920s, Tharpe and her mother settled in Chicago, where they continued performing spiritual music. As Tharpe grew up, she began fusing Delta blues, New Orleans jazz and gospel music into what would become her signature style.
By the time she was thirty, Tharpe had survived two marriages (including one to a preacher she married at age 19) and various relationships with both women and men. Although she was open about her sexuality within the industry, she kept this secret from the public. Tharpe eventually met her partner, Marie Knight, when they teamed up with their hit "Up Above My Head." The duo began touring by themselves (along with their band) and started taking control of their own business decisions. They toured, collaborated and performed as two queer black women in a relationship in the late 1940s; it was a radical act.
While Tharpe has historically been overlooked in rock 'n' roll history, she has, in recent years, been rightfully celebrated as a woman who broke every norm, and has a central place in the Turning the Tables canon. She was a gospel singer at heart who became a celebrity by forging a new path musically, a queer woman who toured with her partner and a fearless black artist who was in love with crafting a new sound.Tharpe influenced a generations of musicians.
Celebrate Black History 🖤