• American gospel singer Sister Rosetta Tharpe (1915 - 1973) performs at a Blues and Gospel Caravan tour in the UK, 1964. (Photo by Tony Evans/Getty Images)
The queer black musician from Arkansas influenced artists including Chuck Berry, Little Richard, and Elvis Presley.
By
Michaela Morgan

14 Dec 2017 - 10:30 AM  UPDATED 14 Dec 2017 - 10:30 AM

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees for 2018 have been announced and among them is trailblazing music legend, Sister Rosetta Tharpe. 

The queer black guitarist and gospel singer from Arkansas has been honoured with the Award for Early Influence—recognised for recording rock and roll hits such as “Strange Things Happening Every Day” and “Up Above My Head”.

Tharpe’s work influenced musicians including Chuck Berry, Little Richard, and Elvis Presley. 

Gordon Stoker of vocal group the Jordanaires' told Rolling Stone that Presley deeply admired Tharpe’s unique talents.

"Elvis loved Sister Rosetta," recalled the Jordanaires' Gordon Stoker, especially her "incredible" guitar style.

"That's what really attracted Elvis: her pickin'. He liked her singing, but he liked that pickin' first – because it was so different."

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Bob Dylan has also spoken of Tharpe’s incredible influence on his Theme Time Radio Hour show.

"Sister Rosetta Tharpe was anything but ordinary and plain," said Dylan.  

"She was a big, good-lookin woman, and divine, not to mention sublime and splendid. She was a powerful force of nature. A guitar-playin', singin' evangelist."

Tharpe’s bisexuality was discussed in the documentary Sister Rosetta Tharpe: The Godmother of Rock & Roll—the PBS film noted that she lived as openly as she could from the 1950s onwards before passing away in 1973 at age 58.

Tharpe joins Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 2018 inductees including Nina Simone, The Moody Blues, Dire Straits, Bon Jovi, and The Cars. 

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