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Yola on Sister Rosetta Tharpe: ‘We Have To Give Black America Their Flowers’

It wasn’t until 2018 that Sister Rosetta Tharpe was inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, acting as a much-needed if inadequate corrective of sorts to the lack of recognition the industry has given Black women. But we still have a long way to go. Yola — who recently played the queer gospel legend in Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis — sat down with Rolling Stone to discuss Tharpe’s legacy.

“We have to give Black America their flowers for being the home of another foundational genre of American and contemporary music,” Yola says. “We take Sister Rosetta Tharpe out of history, there’s a gaping chasm that is left.”

With thumping rhythms and heavy distortion, the singer-guitarist invented her own style of playing that influenced B.B. King, Bob Dylan, Little Richard, and Elvis himself — and yet, Tharpe remains overlooked. “The idea of Black women having a somehow equal level of gratitude for those gifts … we’re not even close,” Yola says. “And cross genre, we see that replicated.”

Watch the full interview above.

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