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 (6/18-6/24)
25 photos Launch gallery
1. Me & the homie @jaleelwhite #RujohnFoundation Happy to be in Jamaica! Good times
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5. Good Morning. Early day in Detroit! Making press rounds for @thebossnetwork's Ladies That Lead Tour. Thank you @traycemadre and @colourbynumbr for my glam.
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6. POWER the best show on TV @djenvy, Queens we so big out here. #EFFENVODKA #FRIGO
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7. They said u lost a step, wasn't explosive as once was, the best days was in the real view, questioned your drive, your leadership, your commitment, you don't have killer instinct, going back home is the worst mistake in your career, he got the coach fired, players traded, won't work between him and Kyrie, Him and Kev won't work, love your teammates to much, there's no way he can deliver a championship in his hometown, etc etc etc.... But guess what THATS NONE OF MY BUSINESS #StriveForGreatness #ThisOneIsForTheLand #PutSomeRespeckOnMyName Hahahaha!!! Yes sir
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8. Oooooh weeee this man right here is responsible for at least three of our four babies!! #JOE ❤❤❤🎤 #rnb #king #voicelikebutter #ForPeetesSake
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9. Hanging with my @abcnetwork family! @abcunclebuck tonite y'all check us out ! @anthonyanderson @traceeellisross
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10. My broski ( @sayeedshahidi ) and I are on Top 5 Live on @go90 at 5 (which is super duper close)! Make sure to tune in :) #UncleBuck #Blackish
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11. Lights out💤 #GoodNight
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12. Late nights mornings
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13. Ran into the lovely talented @siedahgarrett on this brutiful favvuz deh!
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14. #halal #love #thedargans #kattwilliamsSHOW #mashallah when that Jennah piece HIT!! @sweetjennahcollection glasses by @baddieglamaccessories LIZ 😍 @dynamiteko top @dazzledmv and jeans @thevision414 and shoes: @louboutinworld
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15. Big Hair and Optical Illusions #OceanDrive #MiamiLiving #coverparty
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16. MAMA and THE SAVAGES ... ⚓️ #supportyourlocalgirlgang
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17. From the bottom of my ❤️, thank you new followers & old! & hello fellow night owls! #grateful #racheltrue #naturalhair #curlyhair #curlygirl #healthyhair
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18. I feel so grateful because I met these amazing young minds, visiting from Houston TX, during their college tour stop today at #usc.These students are ALL extraordinary and embody academic excellence so I'm humbled to have shared a few moments with them to applaud and celebrate their bright futures ahead! Thank you @EmergeFellows for inviting me to speak and blessing me with your love and attention this afternoon!
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19. Happy Fathers Day Pops. U taught me how to be a man. Lessons of love, hard work & gratefulness. Sorry the fishing didn't stick. LOL. I Love U!
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20. Sky Zone and Ice Cream! Best Fathers Day Ever!! Photo credit @mariahcarey
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21. Look what finally came in the mail 😎 #mtvmovieawards2016 💥+🌽! #straightouttacompton
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22. Claudia Jordan: ....
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23. 'Member that time I almost knocked a bajillion dollar camera off the car? Really? Yeah, me neither! #Greenleaf Episode 2 comin atcha!
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24. Full of love. #birthday #Cabo
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25. Oh hey! Look who just joined Snapchat
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