1 Proteus 2 weeks ago ... because she still hasn't quite got her due.I hope we're all aware of Sister Rosetta, but every time I delve into her history and recordings it seems to come as a fresh revelation that she truly, with justice - and without exaggeration - deserves wider recognition as the Original Queen of Soul and Godmother of Rock & Roll. As for her soul royalty, she and Big Maybelle probably deserve sister thrones: those huge and expressive voices, each with her own inimitable control and delivery, are packed to the brim with all the heart and soul we can handle. They certainly prefigure and chart a path for Aretha and any R&B/soul singers who came after.But Sister Tharpe's remarkable musical fusions tore down previously insurmountable barriers in ways that made the pop music of the 50s, 60s, and 70s possible. She was arguably the first to present gospel music in secular settings, accept secular influences in gospel, and catalyze a fertile cross-pollination of the two. Watching her, listening to her performances, you realize that, to her, it was all one big glorious undivided and indivisible thing: that the music itself was bigger and more powerful than any attempts to limit and define it. That is, she refused to impose restrictions on herself, or submit to anyone else's. Which is itself a rock & roll attitude more rockers espouse than actually live up to.And I don't think she had a thing to prove, I think she was just being herself - doing what it came naturally to her to do, thereby not only jump-starting at least a couple genres of pop music, but providing an object lesson in the power of being who you are. A plus-sized black female gospel performer, born in southern US rural poverty, who just happened to invent (among other things) a good chunk of what skinny British white boys would transmute into "blues-rock" years later (and ride to rock star glory)? Yeahman! Why not?What's more, they credited her. Clapton, Beck, and Keef were all inspired and influenced by her May 7, 1964 appearance at the train station in Manchester. She was a favorite singer of Elvis, Little Richard, and Johnny Cash. Carl Perkins, Chuck Berry, and Jerry Lee Lewis acknowledged her influence. She's deep in the roots of rock & roll (AND soul), every bit as fundamental as Robert Johnson, Big Joe Turner, or T-Bone Walker. Backed by big bands heavy on boogie-woogie piano, starting in the 30s - and ending with her distinctive small guitar-driven combos - she was a bridge between eras. And boy howdy, how this setting for a gospel tune must have had church ladies clutching their pearls and deacons decrying hellfire from the pulpit in 1941: While she was playing guitar in her mother's Pentecostal evangelical revue by the age of 6, she was first recorded on electric guitar in the mid-40s. While most existing film of per performances come from the 50s and 60s, the unique style was present from the beginning. Some styles she fused have rarely been attempted. Check out this performance from a French jazz festival in 1960, where she strangles rockabilly bebop rock-n-roll licks from a Gretsch against a band that's what? R&B, Dixieland (complete with a rhythm-choppin' banjo!), gospel, soul? Yes! Note how skillfully and naturally she interacts with what was surely a house band for the festival, how generous she is to soloists, how surely she leads the whole performance. Just pure musicianship. Or the same band doing one of her first hits (from the 30s): a electric blues-Dixieland talkin' preachment agin hypocrisy in the church, pretense, classism, sexism, greed, educated fools - all chorused by a pre-hippie plea for love and understading. Another from the same show. And here's a 1964 medley of a raver, a ballad, and her shufflin' gospel standard "This Train." I mean, come on! The voice, the delivery, the guitar mastery, the savvy pacing and performance. Getting deep into her contributions to the instrumental vocabulary, attitude, and tone of blues-rock guitar heros to come, check out this seam rippin' exercise: The same driven tone is on display in this familiar romp: A pretty good historical overview... Getting in deeper, part of a 4-part history. (Parts 1 & 2 are blocked in the US.)3: 4: All this, plus multiple marriages (one of which she charged concert admission to), skillful media manipulation, and likely bisexuality. Despite so many barriers, to the best of her drive and determination, she did it her way.How many years ahead of her time?The story gets better every time I think of it.