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The untold story of 2018 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Sister Rosetta Tharpe, America’s first rock guitar diva
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. 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!
Wald’s eye-opening biography, which draws on the memories of more than 100 people who knew or worked with Tharpe, introduces us to this vibrant, essential, yet nearly forgotten musical heavyweight whose long career helped define gospel, R&B, and rock music. A performer who resisted categorization at many levels - as a gospel musician, a woman, and an African American - Tharpe demands that we rethink our most basic notions of music history and American culture. Her story forever alters our understanding of both women in rock and US popular music.
What the critics say
"Rosetta Tharpe was one of my first influences, one of the first people I heard sing. I'm glad Gayle Wald has done a book on her, because people need to know." (Isaac Hayes)
"Shout, Sister, Shout is a revelation, an important document and fascinating story. Praise to Gayle Wald for digging deep into the roots of rock." (David Ritz, author, Divided Soul: The Life of Marvin Gaye)
"Before Mahalia Jackson's name was known and before Edwin Hawkins was born, Sister Rosetta Tharpe was a gospel super star. Her unique style of singing, playing guitar and emoting was packaged by Little Richard and the Rolling Stones and led to Rock and Roll. Wald tells 'Sister's' story with understanding, passion and tremendous knowledge of the music and the people. Finally, 'Sister' can rest in peace!" (Horace Clarence Boyer, author of The Golden Age of Gospel)