Tharpe’s music reflected the complexities of her life; it explored love and sexuality, though it never lost the spirituality. She was a risk taker and experimentalist, and her musical decisions – like heavy distortion of electric guitar – went on to inspire many; these are decisions that still impact music today.
By the time she was 30, in 1945, she had already had two marriages to men, and multiple relationships with both men and women. Though it is said she was open about her sexual orientation within the industry, she was much more private abut it publicly. Marie Knight became Tharpe’s partner after they worked together on their hit song, “Up Above my Head.” As two queer women of color, they toured together, and made their own business decisions, in the 1940s, and act of courage that is almost unimaginable considering the cultural climate and the institutionalized homophobia, sexism and racism, of the times.