Rosalie Hill (September 25, 1910* – October 22, 1968) was an American blues musician. (*Other sources give 1911 as birth year, including Mitchell) (Hill’s first name often appears “Rosa Lee,” but she signed her contract with Lomax “Rosalie.”)
Hill was born in Panola County, Mississippi, United States. She was a daughter of Sid Hemphill, the most popular musician in the Senatobia area for years before his death in 1961. A natural musician, Hemphill played violin, guitar, drums, fife, quills, violin, banjo, and harp. He made a living for his family playing music and taught Rosa Lee and her siblings how to play. Rosa Lee started playing guitar at age seven, and by ten, she was playing dances with her family.
The Hemphills were a musical clan; as Rosa Lee told Mitchell, "Everybody in my family played. My mother, my daddy, my aunties, and my grandpa played, all my cousins and sisters played. The whole Hemphill band played music - all of 'em." Hill played music that was in the tradition of north Mississippi, singing acoustic blues that made use of subtly varied repetition.
The only two songs she recorded, for Alan Lomax on September 25, 1959, were marked by a desolate, keening intensity, although by all accounts she was a jolly woman. Her song "Bullyin' Well", has been included on a number of releases over the years. But here is "Rolled & Tumbled" taken from album illustrated below.
Her father died in 1961, after which, as blues researcher George Mitchell noted, most of the very musical Hemphill’s “just didn’t feel like playing no more.
When blues historian Mitchell recorded Rosa Lee in 1967, she was living outside of Como with her husband, Ruffan Hill, doing their best to subsist from farming. Even though many from the Hemphill clan had given up on music, Rosa Lee still lived near to Jesse Mae Hemphill, her niece (who was then known as Jessie Mae Brooks), and Ada Mae Anderson, her cousin, both of whom were interviewed and recorded by Mitchell on his Mississippi trip.
Pictures like this one of George Mitchell and Rosa Lee Hill in 1967 were recently discovered unpublished and undeveloped in Mitchell’s Florida home. They are featured in the new book “Mississippi Hill Country Blues, 1967.”
Her album, Rosa Lee Hill and Friends, was part of Fat Possum's campaign to reissue the recordings made by George Mitchell. It included Hill's niece, Jessie Mae Hemphill, as well as Jim Bunkley, Catherine Porter, Will Shade, Essie Mae Brooks, Precious Bryant, and Lottie Kate.
Rosie hung up her guitar for a time, but by the time Mitchell visited in 1967 she was playing again, and recorded for him a barely less spry version of “Rolled and Tumbled. When Mitchell returned to Mississippi in 1968, Rosa Lee had passed away. She died in October 1968, in Senatobia, Mississippi.
(Info edited from various sources mainly George Mitchell liner notes & Wikipedia)