Didn't It Rain!
The Life-loving Resilience of
Sister Rosetta Tharpe
gospel singer and godmother of rock 'n' roll
born in Cotton Patch, Arkansas, in 1915
died in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1973
Responding to torrential rain
How to respond to hurricanes? There's no need to pretend that it's easy - and sometimes it's just plain tragic. Still, when it comes to surviving storms, I take inspiration from Sister Rosetta Tharpe. A gospel singer and the godmother of rock n roll, Sister Tharpe blended the sacred and the secular into a new musical form that now provides pleasure for billions. No stranger to the dynamics of pleasure and pain, she blended three spiritual modalities -- three ways of responding to the indwelling lure of God -- that are at the heart of abundant living: true grit, creativity, and a passion for life. In our time we speak of this combination as resilience. No, God does not cause the hurricanes. Nature has power, too. But God lures us into resilience, relative to our abilities, albeit needing our cooperation. Sister Tharpe cooperated.
-- Jay McDaniel
The resilience of trees
"More and more I have come to admire resilience
Not the simple resistance of a pillow, whose foam
returns over and over to the same shape, but the sinuous
tenacity of a tree: finding the light newly blocked on one side,
It turns to another. A blind intelligence, true.
But out of such persistence arose turtles, rivers,
mitochondria, figs—all this resinous, unretractable Earth."
— Jane Hirshfield from "Optimism" in Given Sugar, Given Salt
Keep on performing
"In 1970, while on a blues tour with Muddy Waters, Tharpe fell ill and returned to America. She soon suffered a stroke and, due to complications from diabetes, had a leg amputated. Despite these trials, Tharpe continued to perform occasionally, most notably with the Sensational Nightingales. After a second stroke she died in Philadelphia on October 9, 1973."
-- Encyclopedia of American Gospel Music, W.K. McNeil
More on Sister Rosetta Tharpe
Below we offer excerpts from a tribute to Sister Rosetta Tharpe written by Jessica Diaz-Hurtado for NPR, August 24, 2017. Click here for entire review. Diaz Hurtado is a 2016-2017 Krok fellow at NPR .
Tharpe as a Gospel Singer at Heart
She was "there" before Elvis, Little Richard,
Slept on Buses but the
Open to Love and Sexuality
Unafraid of Heartache, Fearless in Passion,