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Gayle F. Wald
George Washington University (Washington, DC 20052-0001)
The Life of American Singer-Guitarist Sister Rosetta Tharpe (1915-1973)

MUSIC IN THE AIR: THE LIFE OF SISTER ROSETTA THARPE will be the first biography of one of the great underappreciated American popular musicians of the twentieth century. Raised in the Holiness church, Rosetta Tharpe (1915-1973), a singer-guitarist from Cotton Plant, Arkansas, was one of gospel music’s earliest recording artists, its first national star, and the major crossover figure of its Golden Age. Using extensive archival research and oral histories, MUSIC IN THE AIR shows how Tharpe transformed the music of the African American church into sounds that heralded rhythm & blues and rock. Her dramatic story illuminates questions of cultural memory and the importance of African American women and gospel blues to American popular culture.

[Grant products][Media coverage]

Project fields:
American Studies

Fellowships for University Teachers

Research Programs

$40,000 (approved)
$40,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
9/1/2005 – 8/31/2006