06 June 2007

Oh, Rosetta

She inspired everyone from Elvis to Keith Richards with her charisma; combining spirituals with blues and swing, Rosetta Tharpe was hailed as one of the greatest gospel singers of her generation.

"Sister" Rosetta Tharpe (born Rosetta Nubin in Cotton Plant, Arkansas) began performing at age 4, billed as "Little Rosetta Nubin, the singing and guitar playing miracle". Her witty, idiosyncratic style left a lasting mark on more conventional gospel artists however her influence reached well beyond the church; Elvis Presley, Keith Richards, Jerry Lee Lewis, Isaac Hayes and Little Richard (who I happen to find insanely annoying no matter how important he is to the development and the early days of rock n roll, R&B and soul) have identified her— or, more particularly, her singing, guitar playing and showmanship— as an important influence on them. Johnny Cash's daughter Rosanne similarly stated in an interview with Larry King that Sister Rosetta was her father's favourite singer. In Amélie the TV performance of the manic guitar-playing gospel singer which so mesmerises Amélie is that of Tharpe and John Lennon makes a cryptic reference to Tharpe at the beginning of the song, "Get Back"... " Sweet Loretta Fat she thought she was a cleaner but she was a frying pan"

Rosetta performs "Down By the Riverside"

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