This Train: One of Rock & Roll Hall of Fame 500 Songs that Shaped Rock & Roll

Sister Rosetta Tharpe
Sister Rosetta Tharpe
Sister Rosetta Tharpe
Born: March 20, 1915
Cotton Plant, Arkansas, U.S.
Died: October 9, 1973 
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Genres: Blues, gospel, jazz, 
rhythm &blues, rock & roll
Occupation: Singer, songwriter,  guitarist

Sister Rosetta Tharpe found commercial success by blending gospel with secular music. She inspired early rock-and-roll musicians like Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, and Jerry Lee Lewis. On December 13, 2017, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inducted Tharpe as an Early Influence. Her song, "This Train," is listed among their 500 Songs that Shaped Rock & Roll.

Didn't It Rain (1964)

Rosetta Tharpe was born in Cotton Plant, Arkansas, on March 20, 1915. Her mother was a traveling missionary with the Church of God in Christ. Rosetta performed traditional gospel songs, like "I Looked Down the Line," alongside her mom. In time, the family relocated to Chicago, where Rosetta signed with Decca in 1938. She became an overnight sensation. 

Sister Rosetta Tharpe

Her first records, Thomas A. Dorsey's "Rock Me" and the traditional gospel tune "This Train," were hits. Soon she was performing with Cab Calloway and Benny Goodman. For her core audience, Rosetta recorded material like "Precious Lord." She released up-tempo spirituals, including "Didn't It Rain" and "Down by the Riverside" for her growing white audience. Tharpe was among the first recording artists to use heavy distortion. Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Keith Richards cite her 1964 stop in Manchester while on tour with Muddy Waters in England as a musical influence.

This Train (1964)

A traditional American gospel song, "This Train," was first recorded in 1922 by Florida Normal and Industrial Institute Quartette under the title "Dis Train." Wood's Blind Jubilee Singers taped their cover titled "This Train Is Bound for Glory" in August 1925. In 1933, John and Alan Lomax made a field recording of the song. Alan Lomax's included it in his 1960 anthology Folk Songs of North America.

Sister Rosetta Tharpe
Sister Rosetta Tharpe

In the late 1930s, after becoming the first black artist to sign with a major label, gospel singer and guitarist Sister Rosetta Tharpe recorded "This Train" for Decca. Her version, released in the early 1950s, featured Tharpe on electric guitar.


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