Michael Budds' lecture explores pioneering rock 'n’ roll singer Rosetta Tharpe

Tharpe is best known for songs “Shout, Sister, Shout” and “Strange Things Happening Everyday.”

One woman’s triumphs in the rock 'n' roll genre were honored Wednesday night at the “Crossover Pioneer & Godmother of Rock ’n’ Roll: Sister Rosetta Tharp” lecture, held at Chamber Auditorium in the MU Student Center.

The event, part of the “Sound Series” in honor of Black History Month, featured a lecture by music history professor Michael Budds with ethnomusicology assistant professor Stephanie Shonekan providing his introduction.

Shonekan said this event will help show the significance of not only African-American but also unsung women.

"Traditional history books and even societal memory tend to highlight the icons that are more acceptable or palatable to mainstream sensibilities," Shonekan said. "This event will help to highlight an important musical icon that may have been overlooked. As we look back on the contributions of all ethnicities to American music and culture, it is crucial that we re-insert the ground breaking work of African Americans in every field.”

Throughout the event, many songs Sister Rosetta Tharpe, an artist from the 1930s through the 1950s, sang were played and aimed to compliment Budds’ lecture, which focused on Tharpe’s history and her significance in popular culture.

Tharpe's songs featured thumping rhythms and bold lyrics, all characteristics of rhythm and blues and Rock 'n’ Roll music popularized by other musicians such as Little Richard and Chuck Berry, who were considered the “architects” of the genre. Some of her best known songs are “Shout, Sister, Shout” and “Strange Things Happening Every Day.”

Budds said anyone who likes music should take more time out to learn about artists like Tharpe as they listen to contemporary artists because it is essential for growing as an individual.

“I think there is a value in knowing why something is the way it is and to understand traditions they are championing,” Budds said. “The great thing about living is the body of experience and knowledge you receive and how you can put those things into a continuum. This kind of knowing is better than the superficial version of knowing something because you don’t get the full package.”

Sophomore Tanner Boman said getting information from a different culture was important not just for him but for everyone of any ethnicity.

“I think learning that Sister Tharpe was so influential and groundbreaking with what she did for events in the early 1900s were great, along with learning more about the culture of music itself,” he said.

Budds also said though Tharpe’s story is in a long line of stories about people of color — specifically women — who have gone unnoticed, artists like Tharpe will never really go away in popular culture because of the development of recorded music.

“She is in the reference and history books, and the fact is many people who went away were performers," Budds said. "With the development of recording music, though, these performers will never go away. Their moment in the sun is still there.”

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