Sister Rosetta Tharpe

  • Year:
  • Inducted by:
    Brittany Howard (Alabama Shakes)
  • Category:
    Early Influences


Sister Rosetta was the first guitar heroine of rock & roll.

Her heartfelt gospel folksiness gave way to her roaring mastery of her trusty Gibson Les Paul Custom, which she wielded on a level that rivaled the best of her male contemporaries.

Hall of Fame Essay


Gayle Wald

In the fall of 1938, when she stepped out onto the storied stage of the Cotton Club, Rosetta Tharpe did what no performer sprung from the rich musical traditions of black Pentecostalism had ever previously dared, or perhaps even imagined.

She presented the music of her church to a predominantly white audience in search of Saturday-night diversion, not Sunday-morning deliverance. Within weeks, audience enthusiasm for the "hymn-swinging," guitar-slinging "evangelist" had earned her second billing to headliner Cab Calloway.

Notable engagements at other legendary New York venues - the Paramount (with Count Basie), the Apollo (with Fats Waller, Lionel Hampton, and others), and Carnegie Hall (at the historic "From Spirituals to Swing" concert) - quickly followed.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony Program Cover 2018
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Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes performing for Sister Rosetta Tharpe
A powerhouse voice and groundbreaking guitar technique
Brittany Howard

Photography: Getty/WireImage