27 February 2012
264 pages, Beacon Press; Reprint edition (January 15, 2008)
Long before "women in Rock" became a media catchphrase, African American guitar virtuoso "Rosetta Tharpe" proved in spectacular fashion that women could Rock. Born in Cotton Plant, Arkansas, in 1915, Tharpe was gospel's first superstar and the preeminent crossover figure of its golden age (1945–1965).
"Shout, Sister, Shout!" is the first biography of this trailblazing performer who influenced scores of popular musicians, from "Elvis Presley" and "Little Richard" to "Eric Clapton" and "Etta James". Tharpe was raised in the Pentecostal Church, steeped in the gospel tradition, but she produced music that crossed boundaries, defied classification, and disregarded the social and cultural norms of the age; incorporating elements of Gospel, Blues, Jazz, popular ballads, Folk, Country, Rhythm and Blues, and Rock and roll. "Rosetta Tharpe" went electric early on, captivating both white and black audiences in the North and South, in the US and internationally, with her charisma and skill. People who saw her perform claimed she made that guitar talk. Ambitious, flamboyant, and relentlessly public, Tharpe even staged her own wedding as a Gospel concert-in a stadium holding 20,000 people!
Though Elvis, "Ginger Baker", "Keith Richards" and "Jerry Lee Lewis" paid her tribute, "Sister Rosetta Tharpe"'s vast contribution to American musical history has nearly faded away. With the publication of this entertaining and enlightening biography, "Rosetta Tharpe"—who reputedly played her electric guitar "like a man", withstood failed marriages, racial and sexual discrimination plus economic hardships—should receive the recognition she deserves. George Washington University professor "Gayle Wald" has knit together memories of 150 people familiar with "Rosetta Tharpe" and her work. "Gayle Wald"'s competent research provides readers with the larger historical framework within which "Rosetta Tharpe"'s contributions can be appreciated. Born in Arkansas in 1915, Rosetta Tharpe became a well-known child performer, honing her gospel guitar style in Pentecostal churches and tent revivals throughout the South. By the late 1930s "Rosetta Tharpe" relocated to Chicago, made the life-altering choice of forsaking Pentecostal church performances and embarked on a secular career, eventually signing with "Decca Records". During the 1950s "Rosetta Tharpe"'s career sagged due to changing musical tastes, but a well-timed European tour in 1957 reignited her career. "Rosetta Tharpe" courageously cut across racial, musical and sexual boundaries, defying easy categorization, which may have contributed to her obscurity. Wald's biography of this unique performer will hopefully reawaken interest in her life and music.