Sunday, July 1, 2012

Sister Rosetta Tharpe: His Eye Is On The Sparrow

Due to a massive power outage in my region, I was not able to provide my normal Saturday post – so we will have to make that up in the future. Right now I am using a temporary 3G connection which is spotty at best to at least get one post in during the weekend. Since it is Sunday, our Spiritual Sunday connection features one of best guitarists in the gospel genre – Sister Rosetta Tharpe.

Sister Tharpe does her own rendition of “His Eye is On the Sparrow,” which I prefer to the version normally sung in churches. Because it is a close-up video, you see the emotion that Sister Rosetta puts into both her singing and playing. She really knew how to draw the audience into her. It also indicates how much she performed as a solo act as a band could not follow her frequent stops and starts and lengthening of phrases that really make her performances shine.

This particular recording was apparently recorded in France in 1960 and is before she began playing Gibson instruments. The guitar is a Gretsch 6117 “Double Anniversary” model with stock tail piece (it was also available with a Bigsby whammy bar). Rosetta’s guitar in white also carries the characteristic Gretsch Filtertron pickups, which were their noise cancelling model in answer to Gibson’s Humbucking pickups.

It doesn’t appear that her guitar was amplified in this video and it sounds as though we are getting just the acoustic sound of this large bodied acoustic/electric as it sounds a little thin in the video. This is a shame because she could really rock out and I think both you and I would have enjoyed hearing what she could do with this Gretsch. One thing about Sister Rosetta – she spared no expense on her choice of instruments. Enjoy this jewel of gospel music.


  1. I'd never heard this version of one of my favourite gospel songs before. Sister Rosetta Tharpe was quite an interesting personality!

    I have a version of 'His Eye is on the Sparrow' posted on my blog by the Soul Stirrers from 1946. If you're interested in hearing it, this is the address:

    I've made my blog public now but, due to copyright concerns, only excerpts have been posted. Marie

  2. Marie:

    Wow, what a nice a cappella version of the song. I really like the arrangement. Thanks for making your blog public. Is there anyway to become a fan of the site?


  3. Thanks so much for taking a look at my blog, Jim. I used to have a black gospel blog too, so you'll find quite a few a capella songs sprinkled throughout the site. I was thrilled to hear that you were acquainted with Aunt Jennie Wilson, as I quote her in the post.

    I'm very honoured that you'd like to follow. I just forgot to restore the gadget. I'll do it now. Marie

  4. Marie:

    Yes, my brother John used to live in front of her back in the 70s and early 80s. I knew several of her grandchildren.

    I really like what you do and you are featuring music that is not readily available these days. Great stuff.