If there is one figure in Rock ‘n’ Roll deserving of praise she didn’t get, it’s Sister Rosetta Tharpe. Truly the matriarch of the sound, no one can claim lineage or heritage without passing under her influence.
In recent years the secret’s gotten out. The father of rock ‘n’ roll was a mother. Sister Rosetta’s rocking gospel represents everything rock ‘n’ roll has become. Powerful voice, trademark licks, genre breaking power that refuses to be ignored. From Chuck Berry to Freddie Mercury, Betty Davis to Madonna, there is no artists who does not try to bear resemblance in their swagger, musicality, or lasting impact. Like Thomas Dorsey, Tharpe’s twist on the hymns and traditional gospel standards carried into modern times, mixed with urban blues are the foundation of rock ‘n’ roll.
Recorded while on tour at a small venue in Europe, Tharpe is transcendent here. I don’t believe in God, but I believe Sister Rosetta emphatically when she announces on “Vacation In The Sky” that “it seems, that it’s my lot / to not be like them, oh no / I must toil, through the heat and the cold / singing beautiful, playing beautiful, songs of zion / bringing wonders back to the fold”.