Guitar Heroine: Sister Rosetta Tharpe

You may never have heard of this pioneering electric guitarist, probably because she is a woman, and a woman of color (’cause you know, apparently only straight white guys can rock.) Please!

Conveniently left out of those greatest of lists, Sister Rosetta Tharpe (March 20, 1915 – October 9, 1973)  could show Les Paul a thing or two. Gosh, she freaking rocks out on an SG and in heels! She was a pioneer in gospel & rock and clearly a guitar heroine for all.

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Posted on March 11, 2010, in Viral Videos and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. i’m agree with this blog post 🙂

  2. Fans of blues and gospel music certainly know who Sr. Rosetta Tharpe was. If it is true that the wider public is unfamiliar with her work, it has little to do, in my opinion, with the fact that she was a woman. Everyone has heard of Aretha Franklin, Ella Fitzgerald, etc. They are women.
    And why the shot at straight white guys? Way to miss the point of her inclusive music. And, for that matter, is there some evidence that Sr. Rosetta was not ‘straight’? Has someone important denied that Chuck Berry or Jimi Hendrix could rock? (They were not white.)
    Do you believe there have been no great male musicians who have been undeservedly overlooked?
    Can’t we now just enjoy Sr. Rosetta’s music – and introduce others to it – without the loaded rhetoric?

    • Thank you so much for your comment! I sincerely appreciate your consideration. I guess tone is hard to decipher in blog posts, but the “straight white guy” bit was making reference to the default assumptions we have about guitarists. Much like how we default to “male” when we imagine a doctor or president, this too happens with other occupations such as guitarist. When it comes to playing the electric guitar, there is an extra layer of gendered assumptions about “who” gets to rock out.

      Indeed fans of blues and gospel music may know Rosetta, but most pop and even rock fans do not. Which is a shame.

      While there maybe some male musicians who have been overlooked, this does not diminish the fact that overall women are under-represented and under-appreciated in music culture and music history, especially women of color and their contributions to the history of rock and the electric guitar. Hence, why Sister Rosetta is so important.

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