Celebrating 101 years of Sister Rosetta Tharpe
Brookfield Place Winter Garden
230 Vesey St, New York, NY 10281
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NYGF ‘16 begins with a Mother's Day concert in honor of gospel/blues legend Sister Rosetta Tharpe, the godmother of rock & roll. She was America’s first national gospel star, and her famous windmill guitar moves lived on in Keith Richards and Pete Townshend. From the Cotton Club to Carnegie Hall and the Apollo, Sister Rosetta merged sacred lyrics with secular rhythms in a scorching guitar style.  

Summing up the significance of her reach, “She influenced everyone from Elvis Presley to Chuck Berry, Aretha Franklin, and Johnny Cash,” expounds Music Director/Band Leader Luther Dickinson. 2016 marks Sister Rosetta’s centennial + 1, and to celebrate her musical achievements Dickinson will share the stage with a roster that includes Grammy-winner Alvin Youngblood Hart, Valerie June, Dom Flemons (of the Carolina Chocolate Drops), blues vocalist Ruthie Foster, Rachael DavisTrixie Whitley, and – making their NYC debut – the gospel-singing trio Como Mamas from Como, Mississippi. 

First hearing Sister Rosetta’s music at a young age made an indelible impression on Alvin Youngblood Hart, who says, “She's been a lifelong guitar influence to me,” adding, “and to real guitar legends as well; you can't tell me guys like Hendrix, Cooder, Richards didn't have at least one ear tuned in to Sister.” Tennessee native Valerie June found an on-going source of inspiration in Tharpe, “a big woman with a blazing electric guitar,” whose recorded legacy led June away from pop music to explore older country & blues. 

Joining Dickinson in our Sister Rosetta house band will be John Medeski – of Medeski Martin & Wood fame – on keyboards, as well as drummer Daru Jones and bassist Dominic John Davis – both from Jack White’s band. Southern blues-rock rising star AJ Ghent, whose family pioneered the “sacred steel” tradition of playing gospel on lap and pedal steel guitars, rounds out the string section.

This opening night event takes its name from the song “When They Ring the Golden Bell,” Sister Rosetta’s paean to the “sweet forever” of an afterlife with “no sin or sorrow.”


Presented by the New York Guitar Festival's long-time partner, Arts Brookfield.





'THE GODMOTHER OF ROCK & ROLL Sister Rosetta Tharpe' a film by Mick Csaky 2014 from Directors Cut Films on Vimeo.