Sister Rosetta Tharpe (1915–1973) was an American singer, most famous for popularizing gospel music in the 1930s and 40s. Her musical style combined powerful gospel vocals with a guitar and is considered one of the precursors for rock ‘n’ roll. She began singing in church where her mother was a preacher and performed in an evangelical troupe for many years, regularly performing religious concerts at the Church of God in Christ church on Chicago’s 40th Street. She signed with Decca Records in 1938, moved to New York and recorded the song ‘Rock Me’. Tharpe’s music combined gospel and folk, influenced by her religious upbringing and her skilled electric guitar playing. Her recording of ‘Strange Things Happening Every Day’ in 1945 was credited as the first gospel song to cross over to the “race records” charts, reaching Number 2. She was the first musician to use heavy distortion on her electric guitar and had a profound influence on the development of British blues, as well as inspiring the work of stars like Elvis Presley, Eric Clapton, Johnny Cash and Chuck Berry.
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