Song Lyric Sunday ~ Sister Rosetta Tharpe

A few weeks ago I saw a little documentary where rapper Akala introduced us to a lady who has influenced Rock N’Roll immensely. Unfortunately, for the life of me, I can’t remember which program it was on. However, I got hooked on the lady, and so I thought I might as well tell a little about her on Helen’s Song Lyric Sunday.

You might not have heard of her because unlike Mahalia Jackson she is widely forgotten even though she had a huge influence on many musicians since. While Jackson was rather protectionistic about gospel traditions, Rosetta Tharpe allowed herself to express her creativity in all forms of music from gospel, blues, jazz, popular ballads, country, rhythm and blues to rock and roll.

From what I have read so far she was a rather flamboyant lady who was not only hugely talented with the guitar but didn’t care about the expectations society put on women and black women in particular from the 1930s onwards. She just did her thing musically and personally.

Her career started in the 1930s as a gospel singer in the Pentecostal Church. She was married to a preacher, but she left this unhappy marriage. It looks like she was not lucky with choosing her romantic partners both male and female even though some would say she defied social rule and just lived life to the max.

Musicians she has influenced with her cross over self-expression are named for example as Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Red Foley, Etta James, Little Richard, Bonnie Raitt, Ruth Brown and Isaac Hayes. She was very successful in the 1940s and early ’50s in the United States and played many famous venues like Cotton Club, Harlem’s legendary Apollo Theater,  Café Society, and Carnegie Hall, but she was also seen in churches.

Her fellow Christians were not amused as she played secular songs too. Maybe her ability to cross musical and social lines was the reason that by the late 50’s her fame seemed to go down. She was discovered and loved though in Europe which showed for example in her concert at a railway station outside of Manchester in 1964 which was initiated by GranadaTV.

All articles I have seen so far say about her that she had an immense talent to communicate and connect with her audience and as her musical style defied categorisation her audience did too. It ranged from white working class men to black women going to church and everyone in between. It is a shame that she is largely forgotten today. She passed away in 1973 because of a stroke and is buried in an unmarked grave.

I leave you with this little glimpse into the life of a very talented woman and show you the performance of “Didn’t it rain” in Manchester in 1964.

Resources and further reading:


Lyrics by

Didn’t it rain, children
Talk ’bout rain, oh, my Lord
Didn’t it, didn’t it, didn’t it oh my Lord
Didn’t it rain?

Didn’t it rain, children
Talk ’bout rain, oh, my Lord
Didn’t it, didn’t it, didn’t it, oh my Lord
Didn’t it rain?

It rained 40 days, 40 nights without stopping
Noah was glad when the rain stopped dropping
Knock at the window, a knock at the door
Crying brother Noah can’t you take on more
Noah cried no, you’re full of sin
God got the key and you can’t get in

Just listen how it’s rainin’
Will you listen how it’s rainin’
Just listen, how it’s rainin’
All day, all night
All night, all day

Just listen how it’s rainin’
Just listen how it’s rainin’
Just listen how it’s rainin’

Some moaning, some groaning
Some groaning, some praying
Well, a whole
Didn’t it rain till dawn
Rain on my Lord

Didn’t it, didn’t it
Didn’t it, oh
Oh, my Lord
Didn’t it rain

Oh, God sent a raven to spread the news
To hoist his wings and away he flew
And to the north, and to the south
And to the east, and to the west
All day, all night, all night, all day

Well just listen how it’s rainin’
Well just listen how it’s rainin’
Oh, listen how it’s rainin’

Some prayin’, some cryin’
Some runnin’, some moanin’
Will you listen how it’s rainin’
Just listen how it’s rainin’
Just listen how it’s rainin’

Didn’t it rain, children
Rain on my Lord
Didn’t it, didn’t it, didn’t it, oh
Oh, my Lord, didn’t it rain
Rain, rain, rain, rain, rain


This post takes part in Helen’s wonderful “Song Lyric Sunday”. I am a bit naughty and do not follow her prompts but I hope you like my contribution anyway. Here you can find her latest “Song Lyric Sunday” posts and other bloggers songs.

Here are Helen’s suggestions for taking part in Song Lyric Sunday:

Please feel free to join Song Lyric Sunday with one of your own.  We love sharing music!

Here are the “rules”:

  1. Post the lyrics to a favorite song or a new song you want to share
  2. I’ve started including who wrote the song. (I think it’s a good idea to give credit where credit is due)
  3. Make sure you also credit the singer/band and provide a link to where you found the lyrics
  4. Link to the YouTube video, or pull it into your post so others can listen to the song
  5. Ping back to this post or my own Song Lyric Sunday post
  6. Read at least one other person’s blog so we can all share new and fantastic music and create amazing new blogging friends in the process
  7. Check out the new badge for Song Lyric Sunday!  Feel free to start using it in your posts or add it to your site to show you are participating.

2 thoughts on “Song Lyric Sunday ~ Sister Rosetta Tharpe

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