It is my distinct pleasure to welcome everyone gathered tonight at the Keswick Theatre to honor the late gospel musician, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, and to pay tribute to this musical legend that influenced an entire generation with her song and spirit. I would also like to give a special thank you to those performing in the benefit concert—The Dixie Hummingbirds, Willa Ward with The Johnny Thompson Singers, Marie Knight, The Huff Singers, and Odetta.
Sister Rosetta Tharpe was a pioneering gospel singer, songwriter, and recording artist. She took gospel music into the mainstream with her unique mixture of spiritual lyrics and early rock accompaniment. She became the first great recording star of gospel music, first surfacing on the pop charts with her 1938 original composition “This Train.” As she crossed the line between sacred and secular, her witty, idiosyncratic style also left a lasting mark on more conventional gospel artists, such as Ira Tucker Sr., of the Dixie Hummingbirds. Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s soprano singing voice, masterful guitar playing, and commanding stage presence influenced an entire generation of musicians—most notably, Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Isaac Hayes, and Etta James.
As Governor and on behalf of all Pennsylvanians, I am proud to join with the friends and family of Sister Rosetta Tharpe in celebration of January 11, 2008, as Sister Rosetta Tharpe Day. I thank everyone gathered in Philadelphia this evening for paying tribute to this truly amazing and inspirational musician.
EDWARD G. RENDELL, Governor
SISTER ROSETTA THARPE: Up Above My Head
Things really heat up when she starts shredding around the 1:25 mark. You go girl!