Sister Rosetta Tharpe was the first black gospel music star of the 1930’s. Born Rosetta Nubin Tharpe in Cotton Plant, Arkansas, she was the first gospel artist to record for a major label and the first to cross to secular music. Tharpe started performing “Jesus is on the Main Line” at age four before touring with her mother. She left an impression with fans of her music because she had mastered the guitar. Not many black women played the guitar back then.
Tharpe played gigs with her mother, who played the mandolin. She chose to follow in the footsteps of artists such as Arizona Dranes and Florence Price. She honed her skills enough to play along with greats like Lucky Milliner and Cab Calloway later in her career. In the church, she and her mother had joined the Holiness movement of the Pentecostal denomination that would later form the Church of God in Christ.
After pursuing marriage in New York City, Rosetta married Thomas Thorpe. After their short-lived marriage, she kept her last name and altered the “o” to an “a” for a stage name. A few years later, she remarried to Fosh Allen, which also ended in divorce. The third marriage proved her value to beloved fans; 25,000 people paid to see her third marriage to her manager, Russell Morrison in 1951.
With success as an independent artist, she was soon signed with Decca Records in 1938. Two of her hits were “This Train” and “Rock Me.” She became a crossover artist and a favorite for many years. She reached a pinnacle in her success on December 23, 1938 when she played Carnegie Hall. She, along with the Dixie Hummingbirds, another gospel group, were the only gospel acts to record “V-Discs” for U.S. troops overseas.
Sister Rosetta Tharpe experienced a downfall when the evolution of gospel music and the upswing of pop ensued. The popularity of her music declined, then in 1970 she suffered a stroke that resulted in a leg amputation. It caused Tharpe to develop speech difficulties, but she never gave up on performing, despite difficult odds.
Sister Rosetta Tharpe died in on October 9, 1973 in Philadelphia.
Learn more about the life of Sister Rosetta Tharpe on “American Masters Sister Rosetta Tharpe: The Godmother of Rock & Roll” — premiering nationwide Friday, February 22 at 9pm on PBS (check local listings) in honor of Black History Month and the 40th anniversary of Tharpe’s death.
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This Week’s Celebrity Instagrams (10/15-10/21)
31 photos Launch gallery
1. Just a NY girl with BIG dreams....
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2. HAPPY CHILDREN=QUALITY PARENTING. We don't always see eye to eye on everything and that's normal. We're human beings. But we come together and do it right for what's important, the kids. We are not enemies, we are parents. And we are parents 1st. S/O to @monyettashaw for making Mason's bday memorable. S/O to @itscrystalsmith at home taking care of our other lil' Prince. ❤️❤️❤️ THIS IS WHAT CO-PARENTING LOOKS LIKE. #Blessed #Happy #AboveTheDrama #BiggerThanUs
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3. So happy to finally be able to share with you all that I’m the new Global Brand Ambassador for @Revlon! Follow my day on RevlonSnaps. Yay! Choose Love, Everybody! #RevlonXCiara #chooselove #ad
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4. Glam on point!!!@makeupbymotoko & @shaylinjoneshair #easybreezy @lifetimetv #beachesmovie #january2017 😘
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5. ✨True love ✨📸: @jessiemarrerophotography
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7. Today was not easy..but by the grace of God we all got through it. Words cannot express our gratitude for all of your Prayers, Positive thoughts and Support for us throughout the years. Tommy will be missed but most certainly never forgotten...And PLEASE don't ask "Where's Martin?.." he was there too...just not in this picture. Lol! God bless you all.. #LoveConquersAll #MartinShow
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9. West coast get ready for #RockyHorror. I will be live tweeting again. #letsdothetimewarpagain
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10. #THEKEYS pre order yours now ... Available everywhere #NOV22 #WeTheBest 🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑
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11. We about to ROCK at #KCABlackBall!! All for our life-changing effort to end 🌎 AIDS.
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12. Today's #SNAPJACK is brought to you by @yazzthegreatest 😂😂😂💋💋💋
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13. Damn girl you kinda old to be headed to the Go Go. You coming in at the age they leaving. LMAO
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14. Daddy daycare B-Boxin with @acewellstucker @shopraisingace
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15. #FBF Naviyd & URV "LIL MONSTERS"
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16. HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ONE OF THE BIGGEST LEGENDS IN OUR HIPHOP HISTORY! @snoopdogg CONTINUED BLESSING AND LOVE FAMILY!!!!! REAL OG!
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17. Thank you for a beautiful night VSU! Let's do it again! #HOMECOMING
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18. Had a great time this morning with my familia Erica, Griff & Truth!!
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19. Check out my interview on @essence facebook live. #inmyownwords #nycpromo #day2
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20. #She💋 #tbt #TheCoveAtTheAtlantis #DawgPawsAndAll
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21. Bae #retailtherapy
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22. Why me and @coryhardrict got the same pose... and notee... new mouth #naked
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23. When my husband is my personal 'hype-man'! it kills me every time! 💜😂 #WHATNOW #lostfiles📷
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24. Diggy Simmons
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25. Hand full of @jacquieaiche 💙💎💍 @esnail_la 💅🏾
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26. SuperSoulers! You can watch my interview with Carl Lentz live from my Facebook page, tomorrow at 11a ET| 8a PT. #SuperSoulSunday
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27. 💋 .. When the friendship is easy like Sunday morning. ☀️
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28. Sunday mornings are the best........... hugs and cuddles with my angel
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29. #huggar16 #hellohuggars
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30. My gym is everywhere!.. #RnBMoney #TheGeneral 📸: @twelvepastseven
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31. Nothing I would rather be doing... Rocko setting up our movie, Romelō working on a puzzle & Laiyah singing and sharing all she's learning at school... I'm so grateful for the joy they've brought into my life ... Praying for peace , joy & love in the home of EVERY family ♥️ #HeadScarfPJSunday LOL 😂
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