Grammys: Yola talks about the movie “Elvis”, in the role of sister Rosetta Tharpe
In June, acclaimed singer-songwriter Yola will make her feature film debut in Baz Luhrmann’s highly anticipated biopic “Elvis.” On the Grammys red carpet, Yola spoke of her excitement at portraying Sister Rosetta Tharpe, the godmother of rock and roll, in the film.
“It’s just the privilege that I have to say his name and talk about it,” Yola said. Variety senior entertainment writer Angelique Jackson. “Anyone can talk about it, but the role that I have is so central and dominant and within everyone’s reach, everyone knows that. So the privilege that I have to convey this message, rock and roll, and the appropriation of this genre by the diaspora, with all that it has given birth to, it gives me life.
During his interview with Variety On the mat featured by DIRECTV, Yola also opened up about working with Luhrmann, calling him the “king.” According to Yola, the director made it a priority in the film to address the impact of black American music on the work of Elvis Presley, which led to Tharpe’s prominent role in the film. Yola says the film will explore how Tharpe helped invent rock and roll and discovered many influential artists, including Little Richard.
“What touched me was that it was [Luhrmann’s] mission to find that balance as well,” Yola said. “It wasn’t just about drawing people in and making a token gesture, it’s deep inside him. And that spoke to me, that was my motivation.
At the Grammys, Yola was nominated for two Grammys, in the Americana album and American roots song categories. She has been outspoken about the inclusion of black women in the country and roots genres. On the red carpet, she spoke of seeing a new generation of black female country artists blossom, like Grammy nominee Mickey Guyton, whom she called “her sister.”
“I think the important thing is nuance in our stories,” Yola said. “There is definitely a vanguard of artists of color coming forward, black women in particular, in the country and in America. I identify a lot through a lot of space. And my record inhabits that space, including rock and roll, including soul music. It is therefore very important that we can claim all this space. And all I’m doing in my life right now is claiming that space. Including the movie I’m in.