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Sister Rosetta Tharpe: Sex and religion on the origins of rock and roll

Sister Rosetta Tharpe was a young and attractive celebrity in the 1930s. Her innovative and daring songs were listened on the radio throughout the southern United States of America and their audience queued three or four blocks to see her performances. Twenty-four thousand people gathered at Griffith Stadium in Washington D.C. just to celebrate her third wedding! Despite her reputation as a liberal woman, Rosetta was really appreciated especially for the African-American church and was already important before she recorded in New York her song “Rock me” (Decca, 1938). With this single Sister Rosetta Tharpe got her first success in lists for white singers: she was black, she was a woman, and she was rocking twenty years ahead of Elvis Presley, who was only a four years old child in that moment.

Article by Pablo Fernández from Barcelona on Monday, January 13th 2020 ·.·★ Reading takes 32 minutes or 6400 words.


Social movements are not exclusive merit of their leaders and leaders always need the support of their circumstances. As we will see below the society of Sister Rosetta Tharpe was not ready for the explosion that would occur twenty years later around rock and roll. After the release of Sister Rosetta Tharpe′s single entitled ′Rock me′ (Decca, 1938), Elvis will have to wait eighteen years to record his first hit on lists titled ′Heartbreak Hotel′ (RCA, 1956). We know that history repeats itself and, in this case also, the man will receive the merit while the woman behind the man is hidden to the mass.

The passionate nights in the church of Memphis

Elvis Presley sang and performed as a child prodigy for years at the Assemblies of God church he attended with his parents on Adams Street in Tupelo, Mississippi. Those performances were always under control and were too boring for most of the young people. The really attractive event for white youth really happened in the churches on the forbidden side of the city. The young Elvis and some friends got an agreement with those African-American Christians. The idea of ​​those young people was to be able to attend their church meetings on Sunday nights; but, with the condition that they would always sit in the back seats.

′We watched those black spiritual singers singing on Sunday nights,′ confesses to the BBC the Memphis DJ named George Klein. “What gospel music brought to popular music was the feeling. This music put the guts and the feeling and soul of truth and people like Elvis and Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins and those uncles, and Buddy Holly if you want, saw it and adapted it and that is really the essence of rock and roll.′ That music was the same music that Sister Rosetta Tharpe had extracted from the churches′, says the BBC documentary, ′twenty years before. ′

′It was she who plugged her guitar and invented rock and roll as it became known later,′ Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes recently said. It is from the back of these innovative churches where Elvis Presley learned part of the sound of his guitar but also all that passion in the form of tremors, groans, contortions and all the staging that will later make him famous. There are now more than two billion Christians in the world, who gather in thirty-seven million churches. It is very difficult to find two that are exactly the same; but also people themselves, like the churches where they meet, change over the years.

The church of Sister Rosetta Tharpe

The group of churches where Sister Rosetta Tharpe grows is called Church of God in Christ and today their members boasts on the Internet of being the church of many musicians such as Andraé Crouch, the Winans family or Michelle Williams of Destiny′s Child. These churches in particular had in that moment a huge amount of peculiarities that, as we shall see, will enhance Rosetta′s own character. The founder of these churches called Charles Harrison Mason, was also from Memphis and like many other Pentecostal entrepreneurs of his time, he encouraged members to bring their own instruments to the church.

The indications were clear and originally the leaders were uncomfortable in the presence of the public but they facilitated that the meetings were marked by an abundant use of string or percussion music instruments. The dance, the shouts, the palms and the trampling that were already habitual in the African-American churches in the 19th century, were now also often accompanied by innovative instruments. The instruments were often made by themselves with everyday materials such as those that will be known later in Jug′s groups.

Sister Rosetta Tharpe′s father had a prodigious voice and his mother played the mandolin, so standing out as an artist in a community like that was a huge challenge for a girl. Rosetta was destined to pick cotton like her parents so she had to do something remarkable if she wanted a remedy.

The artistic and collaborative environment of the Mississippi Delta

This creative, festive and collaborative atmosphere in the churches of the Mississippi established traditions that will then greatly surprise the white music industry during the 1950s. The founders of Chess Records in Chicago, for example, came from Poland and mentioned having felt particularly attracted by the novelty of electric sounds and echoes. The first versions of amplified guitars had landed from Hawaii and their sounds reached the studios thanks to musicians of religious tradition like Bo Diddley, Washington Philips or Blind Willie Johnson, who began literally playing a cigarette box. The tradition of the horizontal guitar ′sacred steel′ for example, is still practiced today by renowned musicians such as A. J. Ghent, Robert Randolph or John Medeski. Its usage in fact endures in parallel to this day also in the liturgy of the neighboring churches like the ones called Church of the Living God.

The exchange between the church and the blues musicians was so common then that for historians today the origin of the blues cannot be separated from the spiritual songs that African-American slaves sang. Far from what has been promoted in the recent days, many early blues musicians such as Blind Willie Johnson, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Reverend Gary Davis, JB Lenoir or Ishmon Bracey used the blues to talk about their Christian faith. They did it even more than twenty years before the foundation of the gospel industry and many other blues musicians such as Charley Patton, Skip James or Robert Wilkins did it precisely in the area of ​​the Mississippi Delta where Rosetta was born.

Washington Phillips for instance was a peasant and preacher as well as a blues musician and with his still unknown instrument visited many churches such as Sister Rosetta Tharpe. Rosetta may have known him first by oral tradition but the fact is that for her song entitled ′That′s All′ (Decca, 1938) she was literally inspired by the song ′Denomination Blues′ (Columbia, 1927) that wrote Washington Phillips . Washington Phillips recorded just sixteen songs between 1927 and 1929. This itinerant preacher was not exactly a nobody and many musicians such as Ry Cooder, Mavis Staples, Will Oldham, Mogwai or Animal Collective have already paid him due tribute since a Dutch professor rediscovered him in 1980.

Today there are more questions than certainties around the nature of Washington Phillips instruments. A local newspaper referred to it as a box with strings and the promotion of his records as a novel instrument but all the most modern theories revolve around different variations of zither. The witnesses and the recordings that have been preserved agree that they produced a unique sound halfway between sleep and awakening. The sweetness of the sound together with the mysticism of the lyrics inspires deliciously overwhelming feelings in an unusual way even today. The ′Washington Phillips And His Manzarene Dreams′ compilation, for example, received two Grammy Awards for the ′Best Historic Record′ and the ′Best Score Disc′ in 2018.

Women in the development of rock and roll

Many women like Memphis Minnie, Ma Rainey or Bessie Smith had also found their place as blues musicians in the 1920s but outside of these artistic environments the possibilities of a woman were even more limited in the Mississippi Delta. The woman was then particularly marginalized in the church but one of them made a difference. Mary Magdalena Lewis Tate or Mother Tate, which is the alias she was known then, began to open a group of churches called Church of the Living God in 1903, she married three times and she was particularly known then to enhance the participation of women in Gospel preaching tasks.

Alcohol consumption had grown to dramatic levels especially among men before the Dry Law was approved in 1920. Ken Burns′ documentary series entitled ′Prohibition,′ now available on Netflix, argues that specific political interests maintained that high consumption of alcohol and that in a first phase there were only religious women fighting that injustice that plunged the country into poverty. Thanks to the social assistance and itinerant preaching of many women, many of then ordained by Mary Magdalena Lewis Tate, the initiative was already present in twenty different states when Sister Rosetta Tharpe was born in Cotton Plant, Arkansas on March 20, 1915.

Rosetta began to stand out like a child prodigy of the guitar when she was four years old. When she was six, her mother Katie Harper gives her the category of ′miracle′, she abandons her husband and she assumes precisely that role as an itinerant evangelist. From that day until the day of her death Katie will use her mandolin and her own daughter as the main reason for engagement and sustenance.

It was then the year 1921. It was six years before the most critical period of the Great Depression began in their country, but a large number of black people had already begun the exodus to the great cities of the north. The city of Chicago is now about eight hours away by car. Both areas are joined for most of the way by the famous Mississippi River Delta. The evangelists were always looking to have a river nearby to be able to baptize the lost souls they were rescuing on their travels. If the evangelist had the invitation of a church, everything was easier; otherwise they had to find the appropriate environment for their campaigns. Find a busy and free corner to get the attention of passers-by and cite them later under the shelter of an impromptu tent; That was actually a routine for many musicians like Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Nina Simone or Thelonious Monk.

The spiritual spectacle of rock music

The famous jazz pianist Thelonious Monk accompanied at that same time and geographical area to another itinerant evangelist probably of Baptist formation according to historian Robin Kelley. Baptist preachers shared the same number of lost souls as an objective but were clearly disadvantaged facing the overwhelming spectacle of Pentecostal preachers. They included healing, dancing and innovative ways of using music. Music could be the main attraction part of the time, of course, but additionally the Pentecostals also used it to highlight the words of the preacher and create different contexts of interaction with the audience. Thelonious Monk said many years later that the essence of rock and roll was already explicit in those campaigns.

Recordings of preachers or ′preachers blues′ as Jonathan L. Walton calls them had a huge audience at the time and there was in fact an entire industry created around what they called ′race religion records.′ Lerone A. Martin says in his thesis ′Preaching on Wax′ that a hundred preachers recorded at that time for record labels in the category of Columbia, Paramount or Victor-RCA. We saw that yet. The preaching recorded and broadcast on the radio of C. L. Franklin, who was the father of Aretha Franklin, made he earn up to $ 4,000 for himself for a single event and the pompous nickname of the ′Voice of the Million Dollar.′ It was just a matter of time that opportunists as ′Daddy Grace′ appeared.

The preacher Marcelino Manuel da Graça aka ′Daddy Grace′ came from a Catholic family in the Portuguese islands of West Africa and created around his name a brand to sell a wide variety of products such as coffee, soap or hand cream to those who attributed healing powers. During the 1920s and 1930s Marcellin toured the United States of America celebrating mass baptisms, its recordings are still quite overwhelming and his series of churches are still active today with the name of UHOP or United House of Prayer for All People. ′Daddy Grace′ videos show hundreds of women dressed in white. Parishioners dance to the rhythm of the frenetic accompaniment of a variation of jazz called ′shout band′; they jump, shout and faint, especially when they are closer to the Portuguese preacher.

Marcellin, who claimed for himself the name ′daddy′ and claimed to have given God a vacation, walked among those hundreds of women dressed in black and eye-catching ornaments. Blues preacher and musician Washington Phillips was one of the first to report this type of abuse when he recorded ′The Church Needs Good Deacons′ in 1929; but he couldn′t help the ′Daddy Grace′ style from being surprisingly influential twenty or thirty years later in the style of musicians like Little Richard, Bo Diddley, Daddy G & The Church Street Five, James Brown or Solomon Burke.

Gospel music as an intermediate point between opposites

Eleanor Moore was one of those women who was attracted to the figure of ′Daddy Grace′ and opened her own house in Black Bottom, West Philadelphia, for the meetings of United House of Prayer for All People. His own daughter Josephine Moore gave concerts, preached and had from an absent father in the attic of that house, the famous soul musician Solomon Burke. Eleanor encouraged everyone to listen to the music on the radio, used a sheet to make her grandson a cape like ′Daddy Grace′ and instructed him to start preaching with seven years. With fifteen years Solomon Burke began his professional artistic career in gospel industry, sold seventeen million albums and was instrumental in defining soul music. Solomon Burke literally promoted the teachings of ′Daddy Grace′ in word and deed until he died on October 10, 2010. His biographer Brian Ward says that no one in the soul more successfully achieved harmony between ′spirituality and commerce, ecstasy and entertainment, sex and salvation ′

The alleged scientific experiments with plants and chickens, initially planned to support preconceived ideas about the effects of music on people′s minds, have been greatly abused. The Bible already says that ′sorrow is better than laughter; because with the sadness of the face the heart will be amended′ (Ec.7,3) or that ′he who sings songs to the afflicted heart is like the one who removes clothes in cold weather ′(Pv 25,20). Music certainly affects our emotions but the question of whether it does it for good or does it for worse is harder to measure. The same thing can be good for introspection and bad for production at the same time.

According to the testimony of those who witnessed her performances, the music of Sister Rosetta Tharpe used to be better to lift the spirits and increase production. ′Many of the old hymns were expressions of suffering and desire for survival,′ said Pastor Robert Hargrove of the Church of God in Christ church in Philadelphia. ′So when she came and the church, members saw the expression of the freedom with which she expressed herself when she sang and danced, the congregation woke up and concentrated on something that was inside her and what they had never given expression before′.

Blues and his eldest son the Gospel

Katie Harper and her daughter Rosetta finally reached the city of Chicago and became one of the main attractions of the Church of God in Christ on 40th Street. Migrants from all over the country brought to that enormous city countless sounds related to jazz or blues that the young Rosetta was incorporating naturally into her traditional base of hymns and spiritual songs. Sister Rosetta Tharpe was not the only one who dared to combine pagan and sacred sounds but she was also the one who also had the most sweeping staging. Renowned blues pianist Thomas Andrew Dorsey, for example, also pushed a lot of efforts in the same direction from the neighboring Pilgrim Baptist Church in 3301 S. Indiana Ave., Chicago.

Dorsey was also the son of an itinerant preacher and learned to play the piano with his own mother in their church in Georgia. When he ended his studies, however, he followed a path in professional music on Paramount Records that took him far from the customs of his childhood. His song ′It′s Tight Like That,′ for example, was considerably transgressive because of its explicit references to sex and sold an impressive six million copies. A series of setbacks such as the loss of his voice, the consequent economic ruin and the sudden almost simultaneous death of his wife and newborn son, led him to rethink his career again. Dorsey spent time facing God for that loss before accepting in 1930 to be employed as the director of the choir of the Pilgrim Baptist Church in Chicago.

That management position was key for Dorsey. He will use his position as a platform to promote church music as it is known today, but starting as a reference to the sound of a blind woman who will also go unnoticed by history. We are now talking about the blind pianist named Arizona Dranes, the favorite of the aforementioned founder of the Church of God in Christ and probably well known of Sister Rosetta Tharpe judging by the nasal style that unites them. Arizona Dranes had already recorded in 1926 a transgressive mix of ragtime, music of taverns and black spirituals, precisely through the Okeh Records in Chicago.

Jerry Lee Lewis, thirty years later, didn′t hit his piano with more passion than Arizona Dranes did. However, he still boasts today for being the first to suffer persecution by applying the boogie-bowie sound to a Christian hymn. Arizona itself was not alone. Also the label Victor-RCA Records, would publish in 1927, just one year after the recording of Arizona Dranes, four songs of pure blues from two other blind members of the Church of God in Christ church called Blind Mamie and her husband A.C. Forehand from Birmingham, Alabama.

Recording black musicians was very profitable for the industry between 1920 and 1930, not only because of the increasing sales in that moment but also because they were not obliged to pay the musicians. Columbia also recorded in 1927 Luther Martin Magby, a farmer and blues musician who preached at state fairs. The luxurious collection ′Goodbye, Babylon′ (2003) includes him between 160 songs arranged in 6 CDs and a script with biblical texts, in a wonderful selection of Steven Lance Ledbetter from Dust-to-Digital. Nothing is what it seems in these songs, especially for those who believe they can easily recognize the limits of prejudice. Many have unfortunately considered all these popular songs in the same category as the gospel music, when the fact is that they are indead rich in different and innovative technical, social and human nuances that were popular between 1906 and 1960.

Ethics in the gospel industry

Thomas Andrew Dorsey began working mainly with the ideas of Luther Martin Magby, Reverend A.W. Nix or Arizona Dranes, he signed more than five hundred songs and he also did a huge marketing job in which he included of course his self-proclamation as the ′father of gospel.′ In the documentary ′Thomas Dorsey: Father of Gospel Music′, he says that gospel is a very similar blues variation, with only one substantial difference in the lyrics of the songs. He used the traditional black spiritual texts for letters, of course; but his particular goal this time for this music was to be exactly the same as the blues with a small variation of two measures. The gospel was a simple recipe and Dorsey was not the only one to understand it that way of course.

Timothy Dodge says in the documented biography entitled ′The School of Arizona Dranes′ (2013) that this new generation of religious musicians who formed what is now known as gospel, were at the bottom far from the pious original intentions of those first pentecostals. Steve Turner writes in the ′Illustrated History of Gospel′ that ′those who produced, promoted and exploited gospel music were all for reasons other than preaching Christ or building the spiritual lives of Christians′. The difference could be seen first in the priorization of the commercial arguments, but also in a more deep or private approach in the habits that were created by musicians around drugs and sex. Ira Tucker Jr. recalls hearing Sister Rosetta Tharpe saying that this was especially dramatic for women; since they had to reach agreements with men, many of whom were pastors who did not do their part as such. We already saw it when dealing with Aretha Franklin′s life. As the r n′ b singer Etta James said that the gospel clan were ready for party all the night along.

A very long tradition of musicians such as Little Richard, Prince or Michael Jackson will continue to demonstrate that a word or intonation is hardly needed to add a sexual element to a religious song. Ray Charles also enjoyed listening to Rosetta when he was a child and played the same game when he recorded his song ′This Little Girl of Mine′ (1955) based on the anthem ′This little Light of Mine′ (1920). Thomas Andrew Dorsey wrote songs for musicians such as Mahalia Jackson, Albertina Walker or Elvis Presley among which were ′It is A Highway To Heaven′, ′Take my hand, Precious Lord′ or ′Peace in the Valley′. No doubt deeply religious songs, which have also remained at the foundation of the struggle for civil rights, thanks above all to the relationship that people like Martin Luther King had with them.

The first achievements of integration of race and gender

Sister Rosetta Tharpe learned a lot from that innovative movement in Chicago but her husband did not collaborate at all with his development as an artist. Let′s say he did the opposite by assigning her the task of drawing pictures during the church meetings. After thinking carefully, she left him and she went on his own way, setting her own conditions and even performing for a time for a white audience at the then prestigious Cotton Club, Apollo Theater or Café Society of New York. Singing songs about men and women before the cameras, she also succeed because of her learning in the streets made her perfectly capable of easily attracting the attention and participation of the viewer.

After a series of disagreements with the music industry Rosetta spent the rest of her life traveling with her own team, maintaining control over her career in times of deep segregation and hostility, acting and singing religious songs with her particular spicy style. ′, people went crazy just to pronounce her name′ recalls one of the witnesses interviewed by the BBC. ′People enjoyed her style because it was overwhelming with her guitar and then The Dixie Hummingbirds vocalists jumped over the audience and started to sing hymns that really interested to them. It was a good mix and the promoters loved it because they always filled the places′.

This exceptional artist not only managed to open her own path to sing her own songs, but in a brave gesture of gender and race integration she directed an authentic quartet of white men that will later be regular in the tours of Elvis Presley: The Jordanaires ′I remember the first time I worked with her,′ says Gordon Stoker of The Jordanaires quartet. ′They had hired us and we went to the stage door, and then a man came to the door and one of us said:′ We are The Jordanaires. ′To which he said:′ Really? Are you Jordanaires? This is going to be a big surprise to the audience ... ′Sister Rosetta had apparently hired us but hadn′t told them anything about we were white. So the first time we went on stage, they really didn′t know what to expect.′

′Sister Rosetta was the first person to take a bus with his own name written on the side that I know,′ said Gordon Stoker. ′The back had beds because we couldn′t stay in some hotels and precisely that′s why the idea of ​​being able to do it on the bus was a very good idea. ′Whether they were churches, auditoriums, hotels, restaurants, seats or fountains to drink water, ... everything was segregated then. Many times The Jordanaires had to ask for an extra ration for them, so that they can take Rosetta some hot food inside the bus, because the question is that they couldn′t eat it outside either. Sister Rosetta Tharpe addresses this issue directly in her very famous song ′Strange Things Happen Every Day.′

The close relationship between sex and rock and roll

Asa Carter could be a miserable racist but he obviously did at least one thing right: he understood that there was an erotic message in that music and a real risk of the racial integration that actually were close to be real. Rock and roll ′is sexual, immoral, and is the best way to merge both races,′ he says in the BBC documentary entitled ′Dancing in the Street′ (1996).

The terms rock and roll were originally used by sailors to identify the movements of the ship: rock was the movement from back to front and roll was the movement to the sides. You don′t a lot of imagination to understand the erotic meaning. The terms used together would coexisted in the streets being used both in a religious sense and in a sexual sense. Proof that this coexistence was far from being clandestine are the recordings of songs of the early twentieth century as ′Little Wonder′ (1916) by The Camp Meeting Jubilee or the theme ′My Man Rocks Me With One Steady Roll′ (1914) from Trixie Smith.

The mentioned song by Sister Rosetta Tharpe entitled ′Rock me′ is a clear example either. ′Rock me′ is a religious song that includes a plea to Jesus; however, according to producer Anthony Heilbut, the passion and intonation when exclaiming almost grunting the expression “rock me” clearly points to a request much more linked to a sexual relationship: “The lyrics said:“ Jesus hears my prayer ”and she sang saying : ′Won′t you hear me when you pray?′ And then when I came to the choir she begged ′roooock mee!!′ ... ′For many listeners it seemed like an invitation ... but not to the altar,′ Anthony Heilbut told the BBC. < / p>

The value of the recovery of history

At first sight it is very difficult to get a real idea of ​​who this daring black artist was.To know her in the background when having that title so regular by the nuns. Gayle Wald, her main biographer, says that many of those who knew her and still survive her, have confirmed it privately: Sister Rosetta Tharpe had many relationships with men and women outside her three marriages. Mostly of the video recordings that we have, however, show a middle-aged woman; an old lady who really inspires little of the powerful and sweeping erotic thrust she must have in her youth. When she was young her look and feel actually attracted crowds in a way that was more like a rock star.

All the musicians who shaped rock and roll, whether they were black musicians like Fats Domino, Chuck Berry or Little Richard, whether they were white musicians like Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis or Johnny Cash, whether they were even younger musicians who came later as Isaac Hayes, Sam Cooke or Aretha Franklin, all in any case, spent much of their childhood listening to the songs of Sister Rosetta Tharpe. Johnny Cash did it literally while collecting cotton for his parents. The last ten years of his life Sister Rosetta Tharpe worked almost permanently in Europe, where she also left influenced English guitarists such as Keith Richard of The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton of Cream or Jeff Beck of The Yardbirds. Pete Townshend of The Who, for example, owes his famous mill-shaped arm movement precisely to Sister Rosetta Tharpe.

Felicia Collins from Tennessee, the presenter and guitarist who also paid tribute to Rosetta at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame ceremony, said that many of those young male guitar players, were encouraged to play the guitar precisely because of the sensual weight she was able to attribute in her show to that particular instrument. Rosetta printed his original style on an infinity of guitars with a great aesthetic appeal like Gibson L-5 (1929), National Triolian Resonator Guitar (1932) or Gibson ES-330 (1959). The unique style of playing the guitar that makes her way so relevant in the history is its combination of rhythm and melody in the use of chromaticism or double stops. The origin of her style could come from the more bebop side of jazz music, but it is personalized by her thanks to her particular way of treating the melodies.

The documentary filmmaker Mick Csaky says he proposed to the BBC to do “Sister Rosetta Tharpe: The godmother of rock n roll” (2011) when he heard on the radio a review of Gayle Wald′s biography entitled ′Shout, Sister, Shout! The Untold Story of Rock and Roll Trailblazer Sister Rosetta Tharpe ′(2008). The figure of Rosetta has not stopped receiving more attention every day since that moment and her life is now represented even in theaters with works such as ′Marie and Rosetta′ (2017-2019). Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes did the honors of introducing Rosetta to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in April 2018 and Guitar Player magazine now assures that none of the tutorials in her story have been shared as much as Sister′s tutorial Rosetta Tharpe.

Sexual relations in the Bible

Rock music and reading the Bible aroused in me great passions since I met them when I was very young. Even today, the interest and insistence that God shows in talking about his relationship with believers and the church in terms of a couple′s relationship still attracts my attention. God appeared in the Bible as a boyfriend or husband since ancient times to the Jews. The book of Song of Songs for example has such explicit texts that both Jews and Christians have avoided reading it for centuries.

Those biblical books written thousands of years ago cannot be considered especially novel today, but there must necessarily be something relatively natural in us, which has led so many people, from so many different cultures, to be shocked at them for so long. We are definitely not able to ignore that shame when we imagine our relationship with God in terms of a relationship; an image of intimacy and beauty that is actually so far from the chastity, celibacy and unhappiness of so many thousands of nuns.

Is it perhaps because we can′t ignore the reference to our infidelity? Perhaps we are ashamed that according to these same biblical images, we are again and again occupying the role of unfaithful lover? The image that is repeated over and over again in the Holy Scriptures is that of a God who persecutes an unfaithful lover with a passion and insistence that in the eyes of a third party is certainly ridiculous. That image is especially explicit in the book of the prophet Hosea written the 8th century BC. The Russian writer Leo Tolstoy also clearly depicts that tremendously ridiculous aspect, especially in his novel ′Resurrection′ (1900).

The blood wedding of Christ

To be honest after so many years chasing love, can anyone imagine anything more naive than love as we have known it? The Bible sometimes seems to show a God who seems to have no sense of ridicule by presenting himself to his creatures as the same personification of love. ′For God so loved the world,′ the apostle John would write, ′who has given his only begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not be lost, but have eternal life. Because God did not send his Son to the world to condemn the world, but to have the world saved by him, he who believes in him is not condemned, but he who does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. ′

Definitely that love of God seems to be made of other material much more resistant but according to those biblical images mentioned that his tireless persecution will not last forever. It is not that this love is going to break; is that this love has as its only objective the weddings where there is no lack of music, dance and human satisfaction, the pleasure that unfortunately we try to avoid so many times in the burden of our daily tasks. It seems incredible that after all even the most religious Christians prefer affliction. Christ, in the gospels, nevertheless calls us precisely in the context of an idyllic, passionate and deeply human relationship with him.

The same apostle John, who is traditionally considered the apostle of love for his insistence on that subject, rewrites about those weddings in the Book of Revelation. This book written around the year 95 and located just at the end of the Bible presents in the nineteenth chapter a groom finally prepared for weddings where the bride is finally radiant. With the description of the groom′s appearance, however, the reader does not receive the impression of being in front of someone naive at all. The groom appears covered in blood. Fire seems to come out of his eyes and from his mouth a sword with which he finally does justice over his enemies. And the flesh of the bodies of the kings, captains and strong warriors who had faced him, the groom also provides a feast for the birds of the sky.


This is an short translation of the original article published in Spanish by Entrelíneas: Revista de Arte as La religiosa Sister Rosetta Tharpe y los eróticos orígenes del rock and roll


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