It's been difficult trying to find words to say during this time. Often, I get overwhelmed with the news but at the same time feel guilty for not consuming enough news. Regardless, I (as a white woman) have taken it upon myself to learn more about black history & significant black figures who have been erased from our white-washed history books. However, history was my least favorite subject next to math in high school, so I will refrain from making this an actual history lesson. (I will leave resources below if you do want a history lesson.) Instead, I just wanted to showcase a woman who paved the way for the genre of rock'n'roll, Rosetta Tharpe.
Growing up, I had always assumed that Elvis Presley invented rock'n'roll considering his title... "King of Rock'N'Roll." Later, learned that Chuck Berry was "the real King of Rock." In retrospect, it's obvious that Elvis was heavily influenced by black musicians & some would consider a lot of his work to be appropriation. But even before these two men, there was Sister Rosetta Thorpe, who impacted both Presley & Berry along with many other artists thereafter like Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash & Little Richard. Chuck Berry even said once that his career was "one long Sister Rosetta Tharpe impersonation."
Sister Rosetta Tharpe gained her popularity around the late 1930's-1940's when she began incorporating electric guitar with gospel singing. Born in Arkansas, moved to Chicago and then to New York City to make her big break. Despite being acknowledged by large audiences & even Billboard (once in 1938 for her track "Rock Me" and another 7 years later for "Strange Things Happen Every Day") hardly anyone ever spoke on her greatness until after her fame.
So, when someone asks you who invented rock music, I hope you tell them a brilliantly talented, LGBTQ+ black woman did! Sister Rosetta Tharpe shredded it before Chuck did!
Sources for Black Lives Matter:
Petitions That Need More Signatures:
Written by: Deirdre Kelly