Sister Rosetta Tharpe
“Didn’t It Rain,” live, England (Manchester), 1964
“Up Above My Head,” live (TV broadcast)
“Strange Things Happening Everyday” (1944)
One of Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s many fans was Johnny Cash. She was, according to daughter Rosanne, his favorite singer.
Other [black] churches were modeling themselves after mainline white Protestant institutions. They had a piano and an organ, and that was it. They had prepared literatures and other things. But the Church of God in Christ came out of African tradition, its call-and-response mode. . . . There is a definite COGIC style, and it has influenced the whole of gospel music. . . . Rosetta Tharpe and all of those personalities, they all sang in the Church of God in Christ. Utah Smith with “Two Wings”? COGIC. The Church of God in Christ has always been in the vanguard of expressing music.
One thing the Church of God in Christ understood very early on was that if you want to hold children in church, let ’em sing. If they’re not saved, let ’em sing. They’ll get saved. Let ’em hang around the church long enough, let ’em fall in love with singing. I don’t know anybody that’s a preacher in this church, a missionary in this church, that did not start off singing in the choir. If you were a child in this church, you sang. Even if you couldn’t carry a note in a bucket. The choir is where I began. I blew saxophone—and every now and again I still do. I’ve blown alto, soprano, and tenor. But basically I did my blowing and my music in the church. And so I have my musical part that I played in the church. My brother was the organist for the church. My other brother, Nathan, is the organist here [at Temple Church of God in Christ in Memphis]. He’s minister of music for this church. And we have an adult choir, and a youth choir, and our Sunshine Band, little children. So singing plays a part from the cradle to the grave.—Rev. Dr. David Hall (in Alan Young, Woke Me Up This Morning: Black Singers and the Gospel Life )
Today MCOTD celebrates its 100th post! (Hmmm . . . if this is where we are now, where would we be without music?)