sat 19/10/2019

The Godmother of Rock'n'Roll, BBC Four | reviews, news & interviews

The Godmother of Rock'n'Roll, BBC Four

The Godmother of Rock'n'Roll, BBC Four

Elvis's inspiration was a gospel-singing nun - a forgotten legend remembered

Sister Rosetta Tharpe: Bob Dylan called her 'sublime and splendid' and without her there might have been no Elvis

Question: which American star had their third wedding in the Griffith Stadium, Washington in front of more than 25,000 paying fans and recorded the whole thing for release as an album? If you’re wondering how you could have missed hearing about such a quintessential 21st-century publicity stunt it might be because, firstly, this extraordinary event occurred in 1951, and secondly, because the guitar-strumming bisexual bride (who hadn’t even found a groom when the event was arranged) has almost disappeared from the history books.

America only woke up to the music Tharpe pioneered when the first generation of white rock’n’rollers started shaking it about and hollering it out

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Literally just watched this on BBC4 and really enjoyed it. Had never heard of her! Plenty of questions unanswered and unasked certainly but a terrific document nonetheless. Arguably her music is more listenable today than many greats that came after.

Despite the dearth of surviving footage of Sister Rosetta, this was a really enjoyable documentary about a woman who deserves recognition far beyond gospel and blues circles and those "in the know". Her legacy might have been undermined by the white media back then, but there is no excuse for it now.

"This was about the nearest this documentary got to saying that racism was central to the fact that most music fans haven’t heard of Tharpe today" Sure - like it prevented people from hearing Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Ray Charles & Ella Fitzgerald.... Something that isn't in dispute is that she was a great performer, and a very rare female guitar pioneer.

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