Sister Rosetta Tharpe IMDB/PBS

Hopefully Yola’s turn as Cotton Plant (Woodruff County) native Sister Rosetta Tharpe in Baz Luhrmann’s new “Elvis” biopic will inspire more people to learn about the legacy of Tharpe and the influence she had on rock ‘n’ roll giants such as Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Johnny Cash, to name a few. From Vulture:

Yola’s turn as Sister Rosetta Tharpe in Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis is a Hollywood rarity, an opportunity for new fans to discover a legacy once lost to time. Tharpe made history in the 1930s into the ’40s, at which point she cranked the distortion up on her electric guitar, imbuing gospel standards with muscular grooves that would come to be called rock and roll when Chuck Berry and Little Richard scored unforgettable hits indebted to her virtuosic fretwork. Tharpe’s innovative marriage of spiritual songs and secular sounds, and her collaborations with jazz and blues icons, impacted generations of players. Here’s a primer to some of the sounds and musicians she birthed.

In a Vulture profile by Andrea Williams, Yola had this to say about Tharpe’s legacy:


“She clocked Little Richard out of a backwater in Georgia and gave him his rise to fame. If we don’t have that drag-wearing Black man being as free as he feels he can be, enough to inspire Prince” — her eyes widen as she imagines the alternate timeline — “then what happens if we don’t have Prince? We wouldn’t know what kind of postapocalyptic music nightmare we’d be in if we don’t hold things up to the light.”