March 22, 2007

Shout, Sister, Shout!

There's a scene in one of our favorite films (Amelie), from one of our favorite directors (Jean-Pierre Jeunet), in which the title character receives a mysterious video tape from an anonymous admirer. The tape reveals a number of beautiful, remarkable, odd, and playful scenes culled from random sources and edited together into a poetic and heart-warming pastiche. It's one of the many moments in the film which brings a little tear to our eye.

One of the charming little snippets is fuzzy black and white footage of a woman tearing it up on a Stratocaster in front of a robed and rollicking gospel choir. That image has always stuck with me, but I never took the time to find out who that lady was. Well, this weekend I read a review of "Shout, Sister, Shout!: The Untold Story of Rock-and-Roll Trailblazer Sister Rosetta Tharpe", a new biography by Gayle F. Wald about that very same remarkable woman. The book sounds fascinating: The story of a guitar playing, r&b singing, gospel choir fronting, black woman touring through the Jim Crow South of the 1930s and 40s. Sister Tharpe broke all kinds of boundaries and rules, and influenced some of the biggest, baddest trailblazers in music including Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Little Richard. YouTube has some great footage of her performances that are definitely worth checking out.

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