The First Bad Ass Lady of Rock N Roll: Sister Rosetta Tharpe

Her Influence on everyone including Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, and countless others has kept her name and music very much alive.

They call Sister Rosetta Tharpe the godmother of rock n roll, and when you watch performances of her ripping out guitar solos better than most millennial these days, there is no question why. Born on a cotton plantation in Arkansas in 1915, she was raised around music and performing in her church almost right out of the womb. At age 19 she married and quickly divorced a preacher but kept his last name as her stage name. Oh yeah, and she play the fucking guitar. Better than most. Her life explained best by writer Stereo Williams the following:

She lived her life boldly, daring to play guitar aggressively at a time when female guitarists of any discipline were rare. She chose to embrace secular artists and audiences at a time when the black gospel community was loud in its condemnation of crossing over. And her own sexual identity has been the subject of much candor. Her attempts at marriage have been called a facade by some who’ve claimed that Tharpe was bisexual, and only considered marriage for appearances and to pander to gospel’s conservative audience. Her biographer, Gayle Wald, wrote that one fellow musician claimed to have walked in on Tharpe and two other women in bed during her “honeymoon tour” right after her third wedding in 1951.

She was a black female guitar player who was possibly bi-sexual in a time when none of those things were accepted or common. Books, magazines and historians can gloss over her as much as they want, but true fans of rock n roll know better. She passed away in 1973 and left us with her legacy. She was a pioneer, a genius, and someone we pay tribute to. Wherever you are sister, thank you for your contributions.

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