Rock_and_Roll_Hall_of_Fame (1)

The nominees are out for this year’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame class. And once again one of the most deserving potential nominees is nowhere to be found. Of course you could cast an online vote for The Cars if you like. They’re one of the 19 nominees. So is Joan Baez. Now I love Joan Baez, but c’mon, she’s no rocker.

For reasons unknown to rational humans one name never makes the list, and she remains on the outside looking in where the Rock and Roll hall of Fame is concerned. Here’s the introductory paragraph from Wikipedia about her:

“[To be named in a minute] (March 20, 1915 – October 9, 1973) was an American singer, songwriter, guitarist and recording artist. A pioneer of mid-20th-century music, she attained popularity in the 1930s and 1940s with her gospel recordings, characterized by a unique mixture of spiritual lyrics and rhythmic accompaniment that was a precursor of rock and roll. She was the first great recording star of gospel music and among the first gospel musicians to appeal to rhythm-and-blues and rock-and-roll audiences, later being referred to as “the original soul sister” and “the godmother of rock and roll”…She influenced early rock-and-roll musicians, including Little Richard, Johnny Cash, Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis.”

Oh yeah, others who have named her as an influence include Isaac Hayes and Aretha Franklin. If you think she was just a gospel singer, you need to know that she was on the outs with the church crowd from time to time because she played the dark world of nightclubs Thursday, Friday and Saturday, as she toured America’s churches for Sunday services complete with electric guitar and rhythm and blues/rock and roll beat.

She’s been featured on a PBS special. She’s been the subject of a Move-on.org petition drive for inclusion in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But, she’s still never been inducted, and isn’t up this year. But, go ahead and vote for Janet Jackson instead; she’s on this year’s list.

A little more from Wikipedia about the subject of this piece:

“[Her] appearances with the jazz artist Cab Calloway at Harlem’s Cotton Club in October 1938 and in John Hammond’s “Spirituals to Swing” concert at Carnegie Hall on December 23, 1938, gained her more fame, along with notoriety. These performances, which both shocked and awed the crowds, were controversial as well as revolutionary in several respects. Performing gospel music for secular nightclub audiences and alongside blues and jazz musicians and dancers was unusual, and in conservative religious circles a woman playing the guitar in such settings was frowned upon. For these reasons, [she] fell out of favor with segments of the gospel community…Her recordings of “This Train” and “Rock Me”, which combined gospel themes with bouncy up-tempo arrangements, were hits in the late 1930s…”

In case you haven’t figured out the subject of this article yet, her name is Sister Rosetta Tharpe. And, if you’ve never heard her or want to know why she’s called the Godmother of Rock and Roll, take a listen to “Didn’t It Rain, Children.”

Photo by Jason Pratt from Pittsburgh, PA (FishSpeaker) (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

ELIJAH SWEETE
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Copyright 2016 The Moderate Voice
  • JSpencer

    Amen Elijah! I love Joan Baez, but as you say, she’s no rocker. And Janet Jackson? Puleeze….. The Cars? Sure, but maybe next year. Sister Rosetta Tharpe absolutely needs to be honored!!!

    • ELIJAH SWEETE

      Yes, thanks for understanding. The odd part is that the Hall of Fame has a category called “Influence” for those who influenced rock and roll. Mandolin playing Bill Monroe of Blue Grass/Country music is in under that category. But not Sister Rosetta Tharpe? Really? Maybe it’s just folks like you and I that see the irony.

  • KP

    Great post, Elijah. I had never heard of Sister Rosetta but I can see why she would have influenced some of the greats. As well, it is always nice when Hall of Fames reach back a bit and induct the trailblazers, similar to baseball, etc.

    On a side note, I was lifeguarding at the beach in Santa Barbara the summer of 1978 when The Cars first album “The Cars” came out that June. The track off that album “Your Just What I Needed” was getting a lot of air time.

    I went back to Los Angeles in August for graduate school and I had a buddy who work worked at the Roxy Theater on Sunset Blvd. In 1973, Lou Adler and Elmer Valentine, David Geffen, Elliot Roberts and Peter Asher, opened the now world famous music venue. Big names were coming through there, including Boby Marley & The Wailers, Joe Coacker, Bruce Springsteen in the mid 70s.

    The Cars played one night in mid August 1978 and my pally got myself and another in for the show. The Roxy is very small and for this show they actually had a few tables just below the stage where we sat for the show and ordered some snacks. There were probably only fifty people there total. Ric Ocasek is an under rated left handed guitarist and they played a great show.

    Afterward we walked outside and the Rainbow Bar and Grille was next store so we made a stop there. Then on The Whisky Go Go a block or two away. Helluva night and I would cast a vote for The Cars like the other Hall of Famers who have played there.

    Thanks for jangling some good memories and sharing Sister Rosetta.

    • ELIJAH SWEETE

      One of the best things about music is how it brings back memories, and mostly good memories. I can tell you where I was when I first saw The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, or Peter Paul and Mary, Pete Seeger, Jerry Lee Lewis, Bonnie Raitt or Chuck Berry, Crystal Gayle…or even non-rocker Joan Baez. Every one is special and more who are not mentioned. It’s something you don’t forget and remember fondly. Where they performed, who you were with, a special song or event that ties in (I saw P,P&M two days after the assassination of Martin Luther King…Joan Baez was an anti-war free concert on the Library Mall at the University of Wisconsin, etc.) Thanks for reminding me how music moves our lives.

      • KP

        Absolutely.

  • Brownies girl

    You’ve brought back a whole bunch of memories, ES – specially the opportunity I had to see Mississippi John Hurt, back in 1964 or so, in the old Maple Leaf Stadium, at the foot of Bathurst St, here in Toronto. It was one of the first Mariposa concerts held in *downtown*! I got a seat on the grass, directly in front of the stage (2 feet high it was) and was mesmerized by his guitar work and his incredible blues. I can still see his blacky-brown fingers working the frets — beautiful! And his husky voice! Something I’ll never ever forget. Wish I’d had a chance to see Sister Rosetta — the clip you posted is fabulous! Would love to have seen her!

    There were loads of Mariposa concerts to go to, in years that followed, all held on the Toronto Island, concerts where I got to listen to Ramblin’ Jack Elliot, Dave Von Ronk, even Dylan came one year (a surprise guest nobody knew he was coming, he sang two non-rock songs and disappeared, but what a thrill), Jerry Jeff Walker, Fred Neil and a whole bunch of others whose names I don’t remember right now, but can visualize like it happened yesterday.

    Thanks for stirring great memories – am gonna look up Sister Rosetta Tharpe so I can maybe hear more of her music. BG

    • ELIJAH SWEETE

      Love Mississippi John Hurt, but never had the chance to see him perform in person. He did lots of traditional blues as well as mainstream music like “You are My Sunshine” to a very bluesie style. See, you have just returned the favor by reminding me of one of my favorite artists from another time in my life. Ah, “make me down a pallet on your floor.” Thanks.

      ETA: The clip of Sister Rosetta Tharpe posted here is later in her life, 1964 in Manchester, England, if I recall correctly. A few years later she lost a leg to diabetes and did not perform publicly after that.

      • Brownies girl

        Here you go – maybe not the version you were thinking of, but his voice is there. My mom used sing this song to me and my brothers when we were wee kids and showed us how to sing along. My first adopted doggie I named Sunshine (Sunny for short), all because of this song.
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G65ex7Xft_s

        And then there’s this one, I remember his singing it at that concert — moved me to tears, it did.
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=39RBm4tH9cA

        I listen to him again — and sure as hell, I KNOW Dylan was incredibly influenced by this man — so fascinating to see the musical flow forwards! All best ES – BG

        • ELIJAH SWEETE

          “Make Me Down A Pallet On Your Floor” is one of my all time favorites, as alluded to in my prior comment. Thanks for linking it. In scrolling down the YouTube page I found this comment, “This isn’t just music. It’s spiritual medication for the unreachable soul.”

          BTW Doc Watson (if memory serves) does a pretty good
          version of this song as well, in a much more upbeat bluegrass version.

          ETA: Dylan lists Leadbelly as a major influence. I don’t recall a reference to Mississippi John Hurt, but it wouldn’t surprise me.