EARLY WORD: Sister Christian Gets Her Due


Sister Rosetta Tharpe (1915-1973), the pioneering gospel musician, will be honored by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission with the dedication of an Historical Marker at her former North Philadelphia home (1102 Master Street) on Monday, October 24, 2011 at 1:00PM. In addition, on this day, there will be a free film presentation of the recently released documentary, The Godmother of Rock & Roll: Sister Rosetta Tharpe, in the Central Philadelphia Library (1901 Vine Street) auditorium at 7:30PM. The film is produced and directed by Mick Csaky.

Sister Rosetta Tharpe was one of gospel music’s first superstar and its original crossover artist. She brought spiritual music into the mainstream with a blend of blues, jazz, big band, and rhythm & blues. Her ringing soprano voice and guitar virtuosity set her apart from other greats of gospel’s Golden Age. She was the first gospel performer to record for a major label when she signed with Decca. Rosetta toured and recorded with Louis Jordan, Count Basie, Cab Calloway, Benny Goodman, and Sammy Price. Her collaborations with Marie Knight formed one of gospel’s biggest acts. Her charismatic stage presence influenced many popular musicians—in particular, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, and Little Richard. Her tours of Europe helped to spark the British blues revival.

In 1957, Rosetta Tharpe and her husband, Russell Morrison, moved to Philadelphia, joining the lively gospel scene that included the Dixie Hummingbirds and Ward Singers. She was a first-generation resident in the historic Yorktown neighborhood, and a member of Bright Hope Baptist Church. From Philadelphia, she did some of her finest recordings, releasing five LP’s and gaining a Grammy nomination with her 1968 album, Precious Memories. In 1998, the U.S. Postal Service issued a stamp in her honor. She is a member of the International Gospel Music Hall of Fame, and the Blues Hall of Fame. Sister Rosetta Tharpe rests today at Northwood Cemetery in Philadelphia.

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