Friday, December 4, 2009

Sister Rosetta Tharpe

Give yourself a little time and check out this performance by the incredible Sister Rosetta Tharpe, one of the most inventive artists of 20th century gospel music. Her voice had the heat of a blues singer--not surprising since gospel and blues are cousins--but when Tharpe straps on that electric guitar? Glory.

The mind-blowing performance above of Sister singing "Didn't it Rain," was recorded live at a Manchester England train station in April or May of 1964 as part of the American Folk Blues and Gospel Caravan show that toured the UK then. That's Cousin Joe Pleasant (who made great music with Sidney Bechet 20 years earlier) on piano introducing Tharpe.

Tharpe was born in Cotton Plant, Arkansas in 1915. Her 1944 gospel hit "Strange Things Happening Every Day" was a top 10 Billboard hit on the secular black music chart. No wonder: the song is straight boogie woogie behind its spiritual fact, listen closely and you wonder if it's really a bit of rock-and-roll a decade before the fact. Especially when Tharpe comes through with guitar solo at 1:32 mark:

This live version of "Down by the Riverside" has great solo at 1:30. (Queen Latifah: Learn how to play guitar and here's your Oscar) And wait..listen to Tharpe spitting rhymes in this one:

Tharpe's long career ended in October 1973 when she died following a stroke. She lost the use of her legs after a stroke three years earlier but still performed until the end. But we don't have to end on such a sad note. Sister wouldn't want that. So let's go back to Manchester for this slow burner "Trouble in Mind." Swing out, Sister; Swing out:

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