Can’t no man play like me. Sister Rosetta Tharpe
I know I had heard of Sister Rosetta Tharpe before. Unfortunately, I had forgotten about her. But recently she was a performer I refound (see my Green Piano review) when this picture book by Charnelle Pinkney Barlow, Little Rosetta and the Talking Guitar: The Musical Story of Sister Rosetta Tharpe, the Woman Who Invented Rock and Roll, came up on my radar. As well as Queer as All Get Out by Shelby Criswell (review to come).
This book is how Rosetta plays music and sings her heart and soul out. She teaches herself to kerplunk that guitar, which would talk and talk loudly! It would influence Little Richard and Elvis Pressley. (Not to mention women like Big Mamma Thornton, but I have not had the pleasure of a book about her yet). The unfolding of Tharpe’s life is well organized and interesting. The theme is basic, we know the story of how a talented performer rises to fame, and we know how they were overlooked, but this is more than that too.
It is a package. The text is strong, the illustrations for Barlow rich, deep, and expressive. The text does not go into details of how Tharpe was not only a gospel and rock performer and pioneer, but a GLBTQ+ pioneer (though perhaps a bit more quietly than some). We see the surface of the story which allows it to be age appropriate for most ages.
And if you do a google search for Sister Rosetta Tharpe music, be careful. I found myself watching several YouTube videos, finding a video for the 2022 movie Elvis talking about Big Mama Thornton and the woman who played her in said movie. That rabbit hole got tricky, but I did find my way out of it to come back and recommend this book to you.