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Rosetta Tharpe - The Godmother of Rock 'n' Roll

We’ve all heard Elvis Presley referred to as the “King of Rock & Roll,” but did you know that before there was an Elvis, there was sister Rosetta Tharpe, otherwise known as the “Godmother of Rock & Roll”?

Tharpe grew up surrounded by music, picking up a guitar at four, and began traveling to churches to play music with her mother at just six years old. By the 1920s, she had started to create her own style of music combining delta blues, New Orleans jazz, and gospel. In a still segregated and heavily male-dominated world, Tharpe’s success was limited. It was not until World War II when she became popular among black soldiers, that she rose to celebrity. Her song, “Strange things happening everyday,” references things from the war, and would become her most well-known single. It was the first gospel song to cross over to the R&B Top 10 charts, and some argue it was the very first rock ‘n’ roll record. She continued performing throughout the 50s and 60s before she died in 1973. As a queer, black woman she was overlooked and her contributions to the genre overshadowed, but in recent years she has been getting her flowers. So when you’re listening to your favorite Rock ‘n’ Roll songs, say a little thanks to sister Rosetta Tharpe…and maybe add a few of her songs to your playlist too.

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