This week's diva is the legendary gospel and blues singer and guitarist, Sister Rosetta Tharpe. Born in Arkansas in 1915, she began playing music as a child, accompanying her mother, who was a traveling evangelist, in tent revivals throughout the South. She became a star attraction on her own, mainly as a gospel singer, although she also made significant jazz and blues recordings. Indeed, her combination of the sacred and the secular was considered somewhat scandalous back in the day.
Sister Rosetta, who died in 1973, is probably best known as an important precursor to early rock and roll. With her virtuoso rocking guitar playing, she pioneered an original sound all of her own. Musicians from Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis to Bob Dylan to Isaac Hayes and Aretha Franklin have cited her as an influence, and both Little Richard and Johnny Cash have said she was their favorite singer.
Here's Rosetta in a clip from the early 60s, performing her classic rendition of "Down by the Riverside." As you'll see, she totally rocks.
Here she is performing "Didn't It Rain" circa 1964-66. She arrives onstage in true diva style -- via a horse-drawn carriage!Click here for a couple more videos.