The true rock ‘n roll genius of Sister Rosetta Tharpe

Everyone associates Chuck Berry and other greats with the early years of rock ‘n roll, but there’s another giant of the genre that many people forget, or maybe have never heard of — Sister Rosetta Tharpe, a gospel singer and songwriter who pioneered a whole range of gospel-influenced rock guitar styles. She was one of the first electric guitarists to use distortion, and her playing in the 1930s, ’40s and 1950s helped influence musicians like Little Richard, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis — and touring with musicians like Muddy Waters influenced a range of British greats like Eric Clapton, Keith Richards and Jeff Beck. Side note: Although she was married three times, Tharpe had a number of romantic relationships with women, and friends said her marriages were designed to disguise her true sexuality in order to protect her career. Here’s a clip of Sister Rosetta singing her hit “Didn’t It Rain” in 1964.

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