Gospel music star Sister Rosetta Tharp (1915–1973) was also a rock and roll pioneer. Some say her 1944 song “Strange Things Happening” was the first rock and roll song. Not just a singer, she also played the electric guitar. This was extremely unusual

for a woman, yet she is said to have been better than any male guitarist as well. “Nobody—not Chuck Berry, not Scotty Moore [Elvis Presley’s famed guitarist], not James Burton, not Keith Richards—played wilder or more primal rock ’n’ roll guitar than [Tharp],” claimed a article in The Guardian . “With a Gibson SG in her hands, Sister Rosetta could raise the dead. And that was before she started to sing.” Tharp was also unconventional because she was not afraid to play

her gospel music in regular nightclubs, which many Christians frowned upon. She became the first gospel performer to have a number one hit on the R&B music chart. She gave a concert in England in 1964 that had a major impact on the evolution of rock and roll in that country. Many great rock stars—including Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley,

Little Richard, and Bob Dylan—said she was a major influence on their music. She was inducted into the Rock and

Roll Hall of Fame in 2018 for her early contributions to the genre.


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