Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Sister Rosetta Tharpe Vol. 3 (1946-1947)

John Morthland

By John Morthland

on 04.22.11 in Reviews
The sound of the sacred and secular rubbing up against one another.

Sister Rosetta Tharpe was one of the few sacred artists of her era (or any other, until recently) to appear in nightclubs; as the mother of pop-gospel, she showed keen appreciation for the flash, glamour and glitz (to say nothing of the perks) of secular artists. Lyrics like "Everybody's Gonna Have a Wonderful Time Up There (Gospel Boogie)" definitely walked a fine line between sacred and secular, and the 1944 "Strange Things Happening Every Day" first landed her on secular charts. She even cut some straight blues in the early '50s, before retreating quickly back to gospel. Like her vibrato-laden, hurricane-force vocals, her guitar style drew heavily on boogie blues and was a huge influence on first-generation rock 'n 'rollers. All these tensions add blues drama to such tracks as "This Train," "Didn't It Rain" and "Up Above My Head (I Hear Music in the Air)."