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Marie Knight Dies at 84; Gospel Vocalist Sang with Sister Rosetta Tharpe

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Marie Knight was best known for her gospel duets with Sister Rosetta Tharpe, including “Up Above My Head" and “Didn't It Rain." She toured with the gospel legend in the late 1940s and made a late-in-life comeback as a solo artist.

Marie Knight, a gospel singer who came to fame singing duets with gospel-music star Sister Rosetta Tharpe in the late 1940s and made a noteworthy late-in-life comeback as a solo artist, has died. She was 84.

Knight died Sunday of complications from pneumonia at a nursing home in Harlem in New York City, said her manager, record producer Mark Carpentieri.

With a voice that one recent reviewer described as “a natural wonder, an unadorned, powerful instrument," Knight began her career touring the national gospel circuit with evangelist Frances Robinson as a young woman in the mid-1940s.

The guitar-playing Tharpe, a major recording artist on the Decca Records label who brought gospel music to a broad audience, first heard Knight sing at a Mahalia Jackson concert in New York in 1946. Two weeks later, Tharpe showed up at Knight's house in Newark, N.J., to invite her to go on the road with her.

Tharpe and Knight were best known for their classic gospel duets “Up Above My Head" and “Didn't It Rain."

“They had a dynamic, exciting sound where they traded off vocal lines," Wald said. “That was a kind of hallmark with their duet singing, and it was so vocally agile that it approximated the sounds of jazz."

After several years of recording together, Tharpe and Knight parted ways except for occasional on-stage reunions during the '50s, including performances at leading jazz clubs in New York City in 1955.

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