Rosetta Tharpe, Marie Knight, and “Didn’t It Rain?”

Rosetta Tharpe (1915-1973), sometimes known these days as the “Godmother of Rock and Roll” for her influential electric guitar playing, was a Gospel singer and preacher, active in the Church of God in Christ, and a performer in secular venues, including Harlem’s Cotton Club. For several years she performed and lived with Marie Knight, also from the Church of God in Christ.

In 1964, Sister Rosetta Tharpe was part of the Gospel and Blues Train performance in Manchester, England, which also included Muddy Waters, Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee, and many other amazing greats. (BBC story)

PBS story including video of her performing “Didn’t It Rain?” in 1964 —

The same number performed in 2018 by Roz White, as Sister Rosetta Tharpe, with Barbara Roy Gaskins on guitar, and Ayana Reed, as Marie Knight, with Ronnette F. Harrison on piano. This snippet is part of a rehearsal for “Marie and Rosetta” at Mosaic Theater Company of DC being filmed for a news segment.

(Video should work for everyone who presses “not now” when prompted to log-in and “friend” Mosaic founder and director Ari Roth.)

More background —
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nomination

More details at Biography and more on her musical influence at Rolling Stone.

“Didn’t It Rain?” is a Gospel song performed by artists from Mahalia Jackson to Hugh Laurie. Per Wikipdeia, it was first published as sheet music in 1919, an arrangement by Henry Thacker Burleigh (1866–1949), singer and composer.

See also:
Butler, Anthea D. Women in the Church of God in Christ: Making a Sanctified World. University of North Carolina Press, 2007. Includes R. Tharpe.

Jackson, James A. Singing in my soul: Black Gospel Music in a Secular Age
University of North Carolina Pess, 2004. Contains a chapter, “With her Spirituals in Swing: Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Gospel, and Popular Culture.”

White, Calvin, Jr. The Rise to Respectability:
Race Religion and the Church of God in Christ
. University of Arkansas Press, 2012. Mentions Al Green and R. Tharpe.