Black + Iconic: Sister Rosetta Tharpe

Morgan State University junior Dave remembers how the music pioneer took us from the blues to rock & roll -- with a lot of soul in between.

Although her role was long obscured, Tharpe has become widely recognized as the "Godmother of Rock ‘N’ Roll." A gospel artist at her core, she infused spiritual music with the sounds of rhythm and blues, by way of the electric guitar. Another gospel-meets-secular great, Little Richard, billed her his favorite singer as a child. (The two even completed an album together.) In 1970, she was nominated for a Grammy for her rendition of “Precious Memories.”

Fun fact: In 1950, Tharpe married her manager, Russell Morrison in Griffith Stadium in Washington D.C. in front of 20,000 fans. She then performed and recorded a concert. They remained married until her death in 1973.

Latest News

Subscribe for BET Updates

Provide your email address to receive our newsletter.

By clicking Subscribe, you confirm that you have read and agree to our Terms of Use and acknowledge our Privacy Policy. You also agree to receive marketing communications, updates, special offers (including partner offers) and other information from BET and the Paramount family of companies. You understand that you can unsubscribe at any time.