Born in Arkansas, USA in 1915, Sister Rosetta Tharpe was a daughter to two cotton pickers. Her father was a singer while her mother was a singer and mandolin player. She was also a women’s speaker at a local church. With her mother’s encouragement Tharpe began playing guitar at age four and by age six was performing in a traveling evangelical troupe.
Throughout her teenage years she performed regularly and was considered a musical prodigy. At age 23 Tharpe first began to record her music. At her first sessions she recorded four tracks, including ‘Rock Me’, which inspired the likes of Elvis Presley, Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis. From here Tharpe’s fame began to grow, leading to performances with Cab Calloway, Sammy Price, Muddy Waters and more over her career.
Tharpe’s performing career saw her make a name for herself in the Gospel, Jazz and early Rock & Roll communities. She performed well into the 1970s, including a now-iconic show in 1964 which saw Tharpe performing in Manchester on the side of a train platform with the audience seated on the other side.
Unfortunately, Tharpe passed away in 1973, but has been posthumously inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame. January 11 was declared Sister Rosetta Tharpe day in Pennsylvania.