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Lunch » Tags » Books » Reviews » Shout, Sister, Shout!: The Untold Story of Rock-and-Roll Trailblazer Sister Rosetta Tharpe » User review

Entertaining biography of this highly influential pioneer figure in the world of gospel music.

  • Oct 12, 2009
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.  It was a dilemma that would take her years to resolve.  In 1938 Rosetta inked her first recording contract with Decca records.  Decca was looking to make a name for itself in the emerging gospel and blues market and viewed Sister as their ticket to success.  She did not disappoint!  In 1941 Sister Rosetta Tharpe joined the Lucky Millinder Orchestra as a featured vocalist.  This band was at the height of its popularity at that time and Rosetta made some very memorable recordings with them.  But by 1943 Rosetta had tired of the secular music scene and was determined to return to the music she really loved.  Ever restless, Sister would return to the secular world from time to time as opportunities presented themselves.  In 1950, she appeared on Perry Como's television show and in 1952 she recorded a duet with the legendary country artist Red Foley in Nashville.  Sadly, Sister Rosetta Tharpe was only 56 years old when diabetes struck.  Two years later in 1973 she died of a massive stroke on the very day she was scheduled to record a brand new album for Savoy records.

"Shout, Sister, Shout: The Untold Story of Rock-and-Roll Trailblazer Sister RosettaTharpe" tells the fascinating life story of Sister Rosetta Tharpe.  You will the meet people who were most influential in her life, especially her mother Katie Bell Nubin and her close friend Marie Knight.  And you will come to understand how it was that a female black guitarist that emerged in the 1930's would become such a major influence on people like Chuck Berry, John Lennon, Elvis and even Mick Jagger.  By reading "Shout, Sister, Shout" I was able to fill in a good many gaps in my knowledge of American popular music.  Cheryl Wald has come up with an extremely important book that can be read and enjoyed by a wide variety of audiences.  Highly recommended!
Shout Sister Shout 1 Sister Rosetta Tharpe 4 Shout Sister Shout 4 Sister Rosetta Tharpe 2

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June 23, 2010
Wow! This book sounds unlike any I have ever read. I love hearing about books that have subject matter that I love but would never think to read. YOur review was nicely detailed without too much information and really inspired me to start reading more non-fictional books! Thanks!
June 23, 2010
Thanks for your kind comments. As to non-fiction books I will refer to my motto here on Lunch--"The real world is so much more interesting!"
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Paul Tognetti ()
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I guess I would qualify as a frustrated writer. My work requires very little writing and so since 1999 I have been writing reviews on non-fiction books and anthology CD's on amazon.com. I never could … more
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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 U.S. 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 a hundred 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 ...
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ISBN-10: 0807009857
ISBN-13: 978-0807009857
Author: Gayle F. Wald
Genre: Biographies & Memoirs
Publisher: Beacon Press
Date Published: February 8, 2008
Format: Paperback
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