Celebrity songs: Sister Rosetta Tharpe to Brian Wilson

And if you want to find me I’ll be out in the sandbox,
wondering where the hell all the love has gone …

Mies van der Rohe, by Frank Scherschel for LIFE magazine.

Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us,” Robert Plant & Alison Krauss
Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us,” Sam Phillips
Tokyo Rose,” Vigilantes of Love
Truganini,” Midnight Oil
Valentino,” Diane Birch
“Mies van der Rohe,” Twitchen Vibes
Verdi Cries,” 10,000 Maniacs
Hey John Wayne,” Terry Taylor
Brian Wilson,” Barenaked Ladies
Jesus Loves You, Brian Wilson,” Lost Dogs

And this doesn’t fit with the name-in-the-title rule, but a friend once gave me a mix-CD that included Squeeze’s “Pulling Mussels (From the Shell),” mislabeling the song “William Tell,” which would’ve put it in this list. I’d also started out including Steve Taylor’s “Svengali” here, before realizing that he’s actually a fictional character from a du Maurier novel.

Here’s another terrific Sister Rosetta recording on YouTube — Tharpe and Albert Ammons playing “That’s All” in 1938. They’re playing rock & roll in 1938.

Some point to this as evidence that Tharpe is the musical genius who gave us rock & roll. The other possibility is that Sister Rosetta Tharpe was a time traveler.

PBS’ American Masters series focuses on her tonight, with “Sister Rosetta Tharpe: The Godmother of Rock & Roll.” Daniel Burke has a nice introduction to the documentary for RNS.

Oh, and one of the things that this world really, really needs is a good punk-pop cover version of “Verdi Cries.” Anybody know anyone in Me First and The Gimme Gimmes? Can we make this happen?

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  • JRoth95

    I’m internet friends with a guy who grew up with the leader of that band (I don’t suppose his name is Me First). I wonder if that’s close enough.

  • GDwarf

    “And if you want to find me I’ll be out in the sandbo-o-ox,
    wonderin’ where the hell all the love is go-o-one…”

  • Sam Kabo Ashwell

    Augustus Pablo, Chant to King Selassie I
    (and a near-infinite number of reggae songs similarly titled, e.g. Tribute to Rastafari, Ras Michael and the Sons of Negus, Rastafari Is, Peter Tosh)
    Haile Selassie, Bright Eyes
    Molly and Tenbrooks, Bill Monroe (assuming a horse can count as a celebrity)
    Victoria, The Kinks
    Belle Starr, Mark Knopfler & Emmylou Harris
    Your Friend Wil, MC Frontalot (Wil Wheaton)
    Prince Harry Is Our Hero, Joel Veitch
    Sappho, Seeing Voices

  • Clint Eatwood By Gorillaz

  • Anton_Mates

    Alabama 3’s Sister Rosetta

  • Amaryllis

    adieu, adieu, my heart is lost…

    A wide range this week.

    To start with the S’s…

    Royalty first, a Seymour and two Stuarts:
    The Death of Queen Jane –  Méav Ní Mhaolchatha
    Queen Anne’s Revenge – Flogging Molly
    Over the Water to Charlie – Paddie Bell
    Prince Charlie Stuart – Steeleye Span
    Wha’ll Be King But Cherlie – Silly Wizard

    a general-turned-president:
    Santy Anna – A. L. Lloyd (All on the plains of Mexico.)
    Santy Anno – Odetta (Way out in Californio!)
    Santiano – Hugues Aufray (In French! Nous irons jusqu’à San Francisco.)

    the man who started everybody off for Californ-i-o:
    Sutter’s Mill – Dan Fogelberg

    An actress who deserved better than she got:
    Maria – Patti Smith

  • Nora Streed

    “Don’t Sit on my Jimmy Shands” and “I Agree with Pat Metheny” Richard Thompson
    “John Walker’s Blues” and “Condi Condi” Steve Earle
    “Vincent Van Gogh” and “Picasso” and “Velvet Underground” Jonathan Richman
    “Biko” Sweet Honey in the Rock
    “Elvis’ Rolls Royce” and “I Feel Better Than James Brown” and “11 mph (Abe Zapp Ruder version)” Was (not Was)
    “Hey Jack Kerouac” 10,000 Maniacs
    “Clap for the Wolfman” the Guess Who
    “Dancing With Joey Ramone” Amy Rigby
    “Mary Tyler Moore” Barbara Kessler
    “I Won’t be Your Yoko Ono” Dar Williams
    “Pablo Neruda” Patty Larkin
    “Eisenhower Blues(and “Blame it on Cain?”) Elvis Costello
    “Jesus & Elvis” Greg Brown
    “Elvis Presley Blues” Gillian Welch
    “Tonya’s Twirls” Loudon Wainwright III
    “Where is Bobbie Gentry?” Jill Sobule
    “The Death of Ferdinand de Saussure” Magnetic Fields
    “Winona” Matthew Sweet
    “Pocahontas” Neil Young, etc
    “Just Like Christopher Columbus” the Nields

  • Amaryllis

    I just want to sing your name…

    Moving on to the T’s… a prima ballerina, a sailor-turned-songwriter, a general-turned-president, a political bishop, an abolitionist and a dead Pharaoh (okay, Tutankhamen’s name isn’t technically in the title, but he deserves his spot at the table anyway.)

    Souvenir de Taglioni – Derek Bell
    Cyril Said It All Before (Post Tawney Blues) – Tom Lewis
     General Taylor – Clam Chowder
    Trelawney – The Ragged Band
    Harriet Tubman – Sweet Honey in the Rock
    Dead Egyptian Blues – Michael Smith

    And bringing up the end of the range… a courtier-turned-diplomat, “the frustrated Agitated Designated Alienated Spokesman for the disaffected Grunge generation,” an explorer-turned-cartographer, a nationalist-turned-martyr, and a diplomat-turned-humanitarian.

    Sir Henry Umpton’s Funerall – Nigel North
    My Baby’s In Love With Eddie Vedder – “Weird Al” Yankovic
    Amerigo – Patti Smith
    Lament for Staker Wallace – Brian Conway
    Raoul Wallenberg – Andy Irvine

  • Nora Streed

    Lots more if I include all the saints, annd Jesuses and (probaably) fictional characters, like Matty Groves and Stagger Lee. Does Bo Diddley count? How aabout the Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald and the Mary Ellen Carter? Annd I think “Field Commander Cohen” by Leonard Cohen should be in there too, no?

  • Keulan

    “Vincent (Starry Starry Night)” – Josh Groban http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Li5oNy4MP9E

  • spinetingler

    I’m pretty sure that Over My Head by King’s X is partly about
    Sister Rosetta Tharpe.


  • And here’s the last batch:

    Decomposing Composers – Monty Python (Schubert, Verdi, Wagner, et al)
    The Ballad of Wendell Scott – Mojo Nixon
    Bacon Rind / Chief Seattle / The Ballad of Ira Hayes – Tom Russell
    What’s Up Judge Judy’s Ass – Mojo Nixon (Judith Sheindlin)
    John Rock ‘N’ Roll Sinclair – the Dogs
    John Sinclair – John Lennon
    Bessie Smith – the Band
    Tim Smith – the Wildhearts
    Bruces’ Philosophers Song – Monty Python (Socrates, Wittgenstein et al)
    Love Kills – the Ramones (Nancy Spungeon & Sid Vicious)
    Levi Stubbs’ Tears – Billy Bragg
    Gunde Svan – Euskefeurat
    The Day That Thatcher Dies – Hefner
    Maggie – the Exploited (Thatcher… obviously)
    Whine & Grind / Stand Down Margaret – the Beat (Thatcher, again)
    Johnny’s Gonna Die – the Replacements (Johnny Thunders)
    The Death of Emmett Till – Bob Dylan
    Mona Tumbas Slim Club – Ebba Grön
    Good Evening, Mr. Waldheim – Lou Reed
    John Walker’s Blues – Steve Earle
    Vampira – the Misfits
    Positively Van Gogh – Bob Dylan
    Sid Vicious Was Innocent – the Exploited