JJ 03/63: Sister Rosetta Tharpe – The Gospel Truth

Sixty years ago Derrick Stewart-Baxter acclaimed Tharpe as one of the most exciting singers he had ever heard and a first-rank guitarist. First published in JJ March 1963


This is a magnificent record. Sister Rosetta Tharpe is both a gospel and a jazz singer and therefore should appeal to a wide audience. Learning her songs from her famous mother, Katie Bell Nubin, she began her career with such bands as Lucky Millinder, only later re­turning to the religious songs of her youth.

She brings all her jazz feeling to these gospel songs and is without doubt one of the most exciting singers I have ever heard. To meet this remark­able woman is quite an experience, for she has a tremendous personality and great sense of humour, yet one gets the impression that she is really a deeply religious person. This sincerity comes over in all she does. Furthermore she is a guitarist of the first rank and this LP features her extensively on this instrument.

Each track has its own parti­cular excitement, and beauty, and she sings such well-known songs as “This Train”, “I Look Down The Road And I Wonder” (much slower than usual) and her famous “Stretch Out”, together with less familiar numbers as “Ring Those Golden Bells” and “I Heard My Mother Call My Name”. There is a superb ver­sion of “Nobody Knows The Trouble I’ve Seen” called here “Nobody Knows, Nobody Cares” – here Rosetta is at her very best. The choir backing is extremely good and swings from the very first bar of each song.

So many gospel artists are inclined to descend to the sentimental and mawkish, but never this singer. While recognising the talents of Mahalia Jackson, I in­finitely prefer the swinging, and equally sincere performance, of Sister Rosetta Tharpe. All those readers who like good rocking gospel-jazz (I can think of no better way of describing it) will find this record very much to their liking.

On My Way; This Is A Mean Old World To Live In; This Train! I Hear My Mother Call My Name; That’s All (17½ min) – Stretch Out; Nobody Knows, Nobody Cares; I Look Down The Road And I Wonder; Ring Those Golden Bells (19 min)
(Stateside VLP 9008 12inLP 30s. 11d.)

See other reviews of this record and more JJ coverage of Rosetta Tharpe.