Godmother of Rock and Roll

Godmother of Rock and Roll

Sister Rosetta Tharpe is considered to be the “Godmother of Rock and Roll.” Tharpe was born to cotton pickers in the year 1915 in Arkansas. Her humble beginnings would influence her future since her mother was a member of a black Pentecostal church, which often led women to holiness dance and sing in church. At the age of 6 years, she would be playing the guitar as well as singing in the church. African Americans have had a significant influence on multiple musical genres, and the role played by Tharpe was more than significant. In the Mid-1920’s Tharpe and her mother moved to Chicago as a plethora of southerners did. This decision would have a considerable influence on her career. Rosetta performed with her mother in a traveling evangelical group which would eventually kickstarted her career. It was in Chicago that she also made her debut solo appearance in 40th street, and she was instantly recognized as a musical prodigy.

It appeared the decision to move from Jim Crow South was a significant step in advancing her music career. This is because moving from Jim Crow South led to the exposure of a world that was ready to offer opportunities limited by living in the south. Chicago was a more eclectic city that honed a multicultural environment from multiethnic groups. There were racially integrated night spots that advanced her career even though she would later secure more prestigious gigs. She would convert her version of the gospel music into the secular field, which was a critical point as it did define her success in the world of music.

Playing the guitar with heavy distortions was a unique approach to her gospel music, and this would be the recipe that would be significant in formulating the future of rock and roll earning her the nickname “Godmother of Rock and Roll.” The switch to the secular field did draw the dismay of many church folks, as she was viewed as going away from her roots. Tharpe would play the electric guitar in the song “That’s All,” which highlighted her gifted talents. Her style of play would influence Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry, who both and others referred to Tharpe as an inspiration to their music. This was an incredible feat by an individual that had been born to cotton pickers, escaping the Jim Crow south. Thank you, Godmother of Rock and Roll !

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