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Shout, Sister, Shout!: The Untold Story of Rock-and-Roll Trailblazer Sister Rosetta Tharpe [Kindle Edition]

Gayle Wald
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Long before "women in rock" became a media catchphrase, Rosetta Tharpe proved in spectacular fashion that women could rock. Born in Cotton Plant, Arkansas, in 1915, she was gospel's first superstar and the preeminent crossover figure of its "golden age" (1945-1965). Everyone who saw her perform said she could "make that guitar talk."

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 Bonnie Raitt. An African American guitar virtuoso, Tharpe defied categorization. Blues singer, gospel singer, folk artist, and rock-and-roller, she "went electric" in the late 1930s, amazing northern and southern, U.S. and international, and white and black audiences with her charisma and skill. Ambitious 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 over 150 people who knew or worked with Tharpe, introduces us to this intriguing and forgotten musical heavyweight, forever altering our understanding of both women in rock and U.S. popular music.


Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Though Elvis, Ginger Baker, Keith Richards and Jerry Lee Lewis paid her tribute, Sister Rosetta Tharpe's vast contribution to American musical history has nearly faded away. With the publication of this entertaining and enlightening biography, Tharpe—who reputedly played her electric guitar "like a man," withstood failed marriages, racial and sexual discrimination plus economic hardships—should receive the recognition she deserves. George Washington University professor Wald (Crossing the Line) has knit together memories of 150 people familiar with Tharpe and her work. Wald's competent research provides readers with the larger historical framework within which Tharpe's contributions can be appreciated. Born in Arkansas in 1915, Rosetta Tharpe became a well-known child performer, honing her gospel guitar style in Pentecostal churches and tent revivals throughout the South. By the late 1930s Tharpe relocated to Chicago, made the life-altering choice of forsaking Pentecostal church performances and embarked on a secular career, eventually signing with Decca Records. During the 1950s Tharpe's career sagged due to changing musical tastes, but a well-timed European tour in 1957 reignited her career. Tharpe courageously cut across racial, musical and sexual boundaries, defying easy categorization, which may have contributed to her obscurity. Wald's biography of this unique performer will hopefully reawaken interest in her life and music. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Most people today probably have never heard of Rosetta Tharpe or even seen pictures of her during her heyday at the Cotton Club, the Apollo Theater, Carnegie Hall, and even the Grand Ole Opry, spectacularly picking an electric guitar while decked out in a spangled evening dress. Ward's illuminating biography brings the deliciously flamboyant singer to life as gospel's first superstar and a seminal figure defying musical categorization. Tharpe influenced such stars as Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Etta James, Little Richard, Bonnie Raitt, Ruth Brown, and Isaac Hayes by incorporating blues, jazz, country, R & B, and pop ballads into a fundamentally gospel style, and without her precedent, Wald asserts, there would have been no Elvis (Wald suggests that Tharpe's 1945 crossover hit, "Strange Things Happening Every Day," may be the first rock 'n' roll record). What truly sets her apart is her extraordinary guitar playing. Now buried in an unmarked grave in Philadelphia, Tharpe was a larger-than-life figure in American pop music. May Wald's shimmering book revive her for new listeners. June Sawyers
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • File Size: 2513 KB
  • Print Length: 264 pages
  • Publisher: Beacon Press; 1 edition (February 15, 2007)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B001R4CPI8
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #436,637 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rosetta credited March 25, 2007
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
As I have been looking forward to someone writting a book about Sister Rosetta Tharpe I was excited that one was on the market. I thoroughly enjoyed the book. It was sensitively written and with a lot of information about this neglected gospel star who pioneered so many trends in music and what she did on stage. A lot of what she accomplished she has not been given due credit by writters of popular music and this book seeks to balance this oversight.

My only critisism was that there were not enough pictures of rosetta in the book and could of done with a fully discogrphy.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
As a collector and student of American popular music for more than 40 years now I have occasionally come across the name of Sister Rosetta Tharpe in some of the reference books that I own. I would also see her name mentioned in the liner notes for various CD's as well as in books chronicling the rich and diverse history of American popular music. Having said that there was really not a heck of a lot of information out there on the life and remarkable career of this extremely influential figure. Author Gayle Wald has corrected this unfortunate oversight with her entertaining and highly informative new book "Shout, Sister, Shout: The Untold Story of Rock and Roll Trailblazer Sister Rosetta Tharpe". As a result of reading this book I have already been motivated to purchase a collection of her music. And let me tell you I was not disappointed!

Sister Rosetta Tharpe was born in the tiny town of Cotton Plant, AR on March 20, 1915 not far from the birthplace of another American music legend Johnny Cash. With the encouragement of parents who were very active in the local Church of God in Christ, Rosetta began singing in church at an unusually young age. Before the age of six she started playing around with a guitar. Just about everyone who saw and heard Rosetta thought that she was an exceptionally gifted young lady. In fact, it was her acumen with the guitar that would set her apart and help to make a career in music possible. "Shout, Sister, Shout" follows the mercurial career of Rosetta from performing at her local church to a gig at the world famous Cotton Club in New York City in 1938. It is quite apparent that Rosetta was torn between the gospel music she grew up with and loved so much and the incredible opportunities and financial rewards that beckoned in the secular world.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Mixed Blessing January 20, 2009
Format:Paperback
Gospel music is an overlooked genre so a book about gospel great Sister Rosetta Tharpe is welcome. Hopefully readers will be encouraged to seek out Tharpe's wonderful music with her brilliant and unpredictable singing and breathtaking guitar playing. The problem with this book lies in the subtitle: "Rock and Roll Trailblazer." As a rock and roll trailblazer Tharpe is a historical footnote. As a gospel singer she is a giant. Tharpe doesn't deserve to be heard because Elvis may have listened to her. The author spends too much time trying to shoe horn Tharpe into the "Rock and Roll Trailblazer" mold, which is obnoxious and demeaning to Tharpe. Anthony Heilbut's book "The Gospel Sound: Good News and Bad Times" is a better book on both Tharpe and gospel music in genersal. Heilbut includes a section on Tharpe, who Heilbut knew, as well as sections on many other gospel artists, deserving of wider recognition. Heilbut knew his subjects personally and immersed himself in the gospel world. His insights open up the gospel world. Read Heilbut. By all means listen to Sister Rosetta Tharpe. If you still want to know more after you've done that, then buy this book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rock on, Sister! August 9, 2008
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Being a white mid-westerner I knew virtually nothing about the Black gospel experience. Over the years, as a univeristy music teacher at a HBCU I have become aware of many great artists and stories. Rosetta Tharpe is one of them. What a colorful and challenging life she lived. Read this book and tell me it would not make a great movie! When you read the book, you must also listen to her music. Better yet, look for her performance clips on YouTube. You MUST see her play the guitar. I mean, go look for them now!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting May 3, 2014
By Cbryant
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A bit repetitive. I enjoyed the references to all the other artists and tie ins with the birth of rock and roll. I appreciate Sister's musical ability. She must of been quite the thing! I am glad her music lives on.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Exciting Story Of A Pioneer April 27, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
First, I read one review that complains that this book highlights Sister Rosetta Tharpe's rock and roll contributions, while ignoring her gospel background. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The majority of this book describes Sister's contributions to gospel music. It goes, at great length into her gospel background, and the many, many gospel songs she made. She was a major contributor to gospel music of the 1930's and 1940's. Yes, there was a huge schism in gospel when she decided to make secular music in the 1940's. Gospel music lovers did not want their stars to venture outside of their form of music. This schism reared its head again in the 1950's when artists like Sam Cooke had to face similar problems. Lucky for those of us who don't limit our listening solely to gospel music, these artists did record a variety of music. The world is a better place for their doing so. (Yes, I realize that this is a personal opinion.)

I urge everyone who enjoys reading of the great music pioneers of the early to mid 20th century to read this book. The struggles that Sister had to go through are unbelievable. Racism was at its peak. Segregation of music was still strong. An excellent book.
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