<back - SISTER ROSETTA THARPE - Rosetta Tharpe was born in March 20, 1921 in Cotton Plant, Arkansas. She was the daughter of Kate Bell 'Mother Bell' Nubbin a traveling missionary and Gospel shouter. Rosetta influenced by her mother's musical background developed a unique vocal and guitar style that soon interested the people at Decca Records. Signing to Decca in 1938, she became a virtual overnight sensation. Sister Rosetta's first records, among them Thomas Dorsey's 'Rock Me' and This Train were smash hits, and she was performing with Cab Calloway and Benny Goodman.

She remained in the good graces of her core audience by recording material like Precious Lord and End of My Journey, and Down by the Riverside. In 1944, she began recording with pianist Sammy Price. Their first collaboration, 'Strange Things Happening Every Day' even cracked Billboard's race records Top 10. In 1944 she teamed with the Newark-based Sanctified shouter Madame Marie Knight, whose simple, unaffected vocals made her the perfect counterpoint for Tharpe's theatrics; the duo's first single, 'Up Above My Head' was a huge hit, and over the next few years they played to sell-out crowds across the country. The biggest news involving Sister Rosetta Tharpe in 1951 is her very public marriage ceremony held at Griffith Stadium in Washington D.C. to Russell Morrison. The wedding took place during the annual Gospel tour.  By the end of the year Sister Rosetta Tharpe had another Decca release featuring There Is A Highway To Heaven/ I'm Bound For Higher Ground, once again with Marie Knight. Sister Rosetta's crossover into popular music caused significant controversy among her fans. Devout listeners accused her of selling out and considered her performances in 'venues of iniquity' to be blasphemous. Sister Rosetta Tharpe defended her career choices and emphatically maintained that the evangelical message of her music was unaltered, but by this time she had alienated most of her Gospel constituency. Rosetta Tharpe was the first major Gospel singer to tour Europe. There she found a new audience and continued to have success throughout the 1940s. While on a European tour in 1970, Sister Rosetta Tharpe suffered a stroke that impaired her speech, but strangely enough, not her singing. In 1973, she suffered a final stroke and died. The rich legacy of her music strongly impacted all forms of popular music, and ultimately served as a precursor to the highly successful contemporary Pop/Gospel market. Shortly after the death of Johnny Cash in 2003, tv host Larry King asked his daughter, Rosanne Cash, about who her fatherís favorite singer was. The answer was Sister Rosetta Tharpe, the guitar-playing, songwriting, Gospel-singing great also influenced Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and many more. MP3- Up Above My Head |

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