Sister Rosetta Tharpe to be Honored with Historical Marker and Film Presentation

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Gospel Music Legend Gets Noteworthy Recognition on the Street and on the Screen. Events presented by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, together with sponsoring organizations, Girls Rock Philly and The Friends of Sister Rosetta Tharpe.

Sister Rosetta Tharpe was A Powerful Force of Nature...Divine, Sublime, and Splendid. (Bob Dylan)

Sister Rosetta Tharpe (1915-1973), the pioneering gospel musician, will be honored by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission with the dedication of an Historical Marker at her former North Philadelphia home (1102 Master Street) on Monday, October 24, 2011 at 1:00PM. In addition, on this day, there will be a free film presentation of the recently released documentary, "The Godmother of Rock & Roll: Sister Rosetta Tharpe," in the Central Philadelphia Library (1901 Vine Street) auditorium at 7:30PM. The film is produced and directed by Mick Csaky. These events are being sponsored by Girls Rock Philly (GRP), a local music and mentoring non-profit organization, and The Friends of Sister Rosetta Tharpe, the committee responsible for funding the Historical Marker. Beth Warshaw-Duncan, Executive Director of GRP, notes: “We’re really thrilled to be part of these events and share the mission of making Sister Rosetta Tharpe even more known, especially to younger audiences.”

Sister Rosetta Tharpe was gospel music’s first superstar and its original crossover artist. She brought spiritual music into the mainstream with a blend of blues, jazz, big band, and rhythm & blues. Her ringing soprano voice and guitar virtuosity set her apart from other greats of gospel’s Golden Age. She was the first gospel performer to record for a major label when she signed with Decca. Rosetta toured and recorded with Louis Jordan, Count Basie, Cab Calloway, Benny Goodman, and Sammy Price. Her collaborations with Marie Knight formed one of gospel’s biggest acts. Her charismatic stage presence influenced many popular musicians—in particular, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, and Little Richard. Her tours of Europe helped to spark the British blues revival.

In 1957, Rosetta Tharpe and her husband, Russell Morrison, moved to Philadelphia, joining the lively gospel scene that included the Dixie Hummingbirds and Ward Singers. She was a first-generation resident in the historic Yorktown neighborhood, and a member of Bright Hope Baptist Church. From Philadelphia, she did some of her finest recordings, releasing five LP’s and gaining a Grammy nomination with her 1968 album, Precious Memories. In 1998, the U.S. Postal Service issued a stamp in her honor. She is a member of the International Gospel Music Hall of Fame, and the Blues Hall of Fame. Sister Rosetta Tharpe rests today at Northwood Cemetery in Philadelphia.

The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC) is the official history agency of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Created in 1945, The PHMC’s mission is to preserve the Commonwealth’s memory as a teacher and champion of its heritage for citizens of Pennsylvania and the nation.

Girls Rock Philly is a nonprofit, volunteer-run organization dedicated to empowering girls and women from the greater Philadelphia region through summer music camp education programs and activities that foster self-respect, leadership skills, creativity, self-expression, critical thinking and collaboration.


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Robert Merz

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