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Billboard Brasil pays homage to the ‘mother of rock’ with an app that analyzes her contribution to today’s music

SAO PAULO, BRAZIL — When you think back to the birth of rock, the “founding fathers” of the genre – Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, and Johnny Cash – are sure to come to mind. But rock’s true origin story stars a woman: Sister Rosetta Tharpe. Recognized and revered by Presley, Berry, and Cash, as well as other pioneers in the genre, as one of their major influences, this American singer, songwriter and guitarist played a crucial role in making rock what it is today. And to shed light on her cross-generational influence, Billboard Brasil is releasing a groundbreaking tool that will allow for audio DNA tests on songs to identify Rosetta’s contribution to contemporary compositions.

“Rock DNA,” which is available for web and mobile use, offers an immersive cultural experience, allowing users to delve into the musical roots of their favorite songs, revealing historical connections and exploring the complex web of influences that have shaped the genre over time.

The tech works as follows: in the app, users can press a button that will identify the song being played – just as in conventional technologies that are able to identify sounds. After a few seconds, an algorithm will calculate the percentage of the influence that Rosetta Tharpe’s music had on the artist under analysis – musical genre, rhythm, vocal stylings, electric guitar use, among other factors, will reveal how much of Tharpe’s ‘DNA’ is in that particular song. To ensure that the tool’s output will be robust, the parameters have been set by Cristiano Pinheiro, a producer at Punch Áudio, and Gayle Wald, the author of a biography of Tharpe, both of whom are specialists in her style and legacy.


“Being a part of innovative projects is part of Billboard Brasil’s DNA. Not only is this a bold idea – identifying elements in a given song and comparing them to Rosetta’s legacy – but we’re also paying tribute to an artist who played a fundamental role in rock history, but isn’t as recognized as she should be,” said Camila Zana, CMO at Billboard Brasil. “We want to show that a precursor of this ostensibly macho genre was actually a woman, one who was seen as an inspiration by major rockers of the past century, and whose DNA is still present in songs to this day.”

The Mother of Rock, and fame 80 years later

Sister Rosetta Tharpe was a singer, songwriter, and guitarist who played a key role in the development of gospel, blues, and rock and roll. Born in 1915 in Arkansas, she began playing guitar and singing in church as a child; and her exceptional talent soon made her a major name on the musical circuit.

Known as one of the first gospel singers to become a commercial success in the United States, Tharpe was known for using heavy distortion on her electric guitar. Her work was innovative for the time, incorporating pop and blues elements in a hybrid style that influenced countless musicians to come, including Chuck Berry, Aretha Franklin, Johnny Cash, and Elvis Presley.

Considered the “mother of rock,” she’s still recalled on many tracks that echo her high- energy style and her unique fusion of the earthly and the sacred. Even so, Rosetta felt the full brunt of racism and sexism, and her work only gained major visibility 80 years after the release of her first hit, “Rock Me,” in 1938. She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2018, in recognition of her influence on the field. Tharpe passed away in 1973, but her legacy continues to inspire musicians to this day.

Sister Rosetta Tharpe remains an international musical monument and enjoys a legion of fans on digital platforms. “This Train” has over five million views on YouTube, “When They Ring the Golden Bell” has 72M plays, and Rosetta herself has nearly 200,000 monthly listeners on Spotify.

billboard brasil releases app that analyzes musical roots in an audio dna test2

The Tool

Given her timeless relevance, this app – designed by AlmapBBDO – also serves as a tribute to Rosetta Tharpe. The idea is to offer an educational, inspirational experience to music lovers across the world.

“You often hear folks arguing about who the true father of rock is. We want to make sure people know that Sister Rosetta Tharpe was the true mother of rock. And there’s no better way to do that than a DNA test,” explained Rafael Reis and Victor Laars, Creatives at AlmapBBDO.


Agency: AlmapBBDO
Campaign: Rock DNA
Client: Billboard
President and CEO: Filipe Bartholomeu
CCOs: Luiz Sanches and Pernil
Executive Creative Director: Pedro Corbett
Creative Director: Eduardo Vares
Creatives: Rafael Reis, Victor Laars
Special Projects: Julia Newman, Marilia Alves
PR: AlmapBBDO, Giusti Creative PR, and Mynd
AV Production: Diego Villas Bôas, Aline Silva, Marcia Granja Liaisons: Julia Newman, Marilia Alves

Digital Production: Lilian Cavallini, Juliana Sousa, and 20DASH Motion: Victor Laars and Ricardo Chapira
Visual Production: Acaca
Sound Production: Punch Audio

Producer: Cristiano Pinheiro
Head of Liaisons: Lili D. Aragoni
Liaisons: Alessandra Pais, Gabriela Takan
Production Managers: Cristiane Oliveira and Karina Coviello Mix and Post: Gustavo Guanaes, Ian Sierra, and Rodrigo Tuchê Approval: Camila Zana and Debora Miranda

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