#Rosetta Tharpe was one of the world’s greatest gospel singers, songwriter, and guitarist. She attained great popularity during the 1930s and 1940s. She was best known for her mixture of spiritual lyrics and rhythmic/early rock music sound. Tharpe has often been referred to as being “the original soul sister” and “the godmother of rock and roll”. She pushed spiritual music into the mainstream and was a great influence on pop-gospel music. Tharpe paved the way for many performers who followed after her.
Tharpe was born “Rosetta Nubin” in Cotton Plan, Arkansas. Her mother Katie Bell Nubin was an evangelist, preacher and singer for the Church of God in Christ, founded by Charles Mason in 1894. Tharpe began playing the guitar at the young age of four and was called a musical prodigy. She often accompanied her mother traveling in an evangelical troupe throughout the country. Tharpe developed considerable fame as a musical prodigy, standing out in an era when prominent #black female guitarists remained very rare. Tharpe appeared with great jazz artists such as Cab Calloway at Harlem’s Cotton Club in October 1938 and in John Hammond’s “Spirituals to Swing” concert at Carnegie Hall on December 23, 1938. She gained great fame for these appearances.
Rosetta Tharpe married a COGIC preacher named Thomas Thorpe, who had accompanied her and her mother on many of their tours. However, the marriage only lasted a few years and Rosetta decided to use part of his name to create a stage name for herself. By the age of 23, Tharpe was recording for the first time with Decca Records. Overnight she became one of the world’s greatest musical artists. Artists such as Aretha Franklin and Little Richard credited Tharpe for being influences in their music. Tharpe died in 1973 in Philadelphia from complications from a stroke.