By Anita Garner
I’m watching “The Black Church” on PBS and though I’m not Black, the Sister Rosetta Tharpe story is familiar, told over and over in my family.
My mother’s path is Sister Rosetta’s in reverse. Rosetta came up through the church, singing and playing guitar and eventually took her music into nightclubs where her church shamed her for it. My mother, less than a decade younger than Rosetta, came up singing in clubs and on the radio by age 12, encouraged by her mother to let loose with the blues.
But Mother married a Pentecostal preacher, became “Sister Fern” and took her blues from Saturday night to Sunday morning. Gramma didn’t like Fern leaving “worldly” music, where she felt a bright future waited. Rosetta’s and Fern’s circumstances remain a pure reflection of the times and the power of music to endure.
Here’s the same song sung, “Strange Things Happening” by Sister Rosetta and Sister Fern.