Ongoing History of New Music

The Ongoing History of New Music, episode 899: Hidden Figures

I’ve always been something of a but when it comes to the space program. But even though I’ve read all the books, seen all the documentaries, watched all the movies, and even visited space centers in both the US and Russia, I was still surprised to learn something new with the movie Hidden Figures, a 2016 film based on a book of the same name. It told the true story of black female mathematicians who worked at NASA during the hottest period of the space race in the 1960s.

These women were computers in the original sense of the word: people who calculated complex things like flight trajectories, re-entry vectors, and landing coordinates. They were even assigned to check and sometimes correct the calculation spit out by NASA’s big IBM mainframes. Their work was essential to the American space effort.

But this being the 1960s, these women were segregated from the other (white male) scientists, meaning that their work was largely forgotten and unknown until the book and movie came out.

This got me thinking. Are there similar forgotten figures in music? I’m talking about women who did awesome and important things but have largely been omitted by the traditional history of rock? Sure, we all know about Deborah Harry, Janis Joplin, Stevie Nicks, Chrissie Hynde, and Courtney Love, but there’s a group of other women who were just as important but not well known at all.

We need to know more about them. Let’s do that now.

Songs heard on this show:

  • Mamie Smith, Crazy Blues
  • Memphis Minnie, Me and My Chauffeur Blues
  • Rosetta Tharpe, Down by the Riverside
  • Daphne Oram, Amphitryon 38
  • Daphne Oram, Pulse Persephone
  • Delia Derbyshire, Dr. Who Theme
  • Timelords, Doctorin’ the Tardis
  • Matthew Sweet, Faith in You
  • The Ace of Cups, Boys What’ll You Do Then?
  • Fanny, Butter Boy
  • Suzi Quatro, 48 Crash
  • The Slits, I Heard It Through the Grapevine
  • X-Ray Spex, Oh Bondage Up Yours

Here’s the playlist from Eric Wilhite.

The Ongoing History of New Music can be heard on the following stations:

We’re still looking for more affiliates in Calgary, Kamloops, Kelowna, Regina, Saskatoon, Brandon, Windsor,  Montreal, Halifax, Charlottetown, Moncton, Fredericton, and St John’s and anywhere else with a transmitter. If you’re in any of those markets and you want the show, lemme know and I’ll see what I can do.

If you ever miss a show, you can always get the podcast edition available through Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you get your on-demand audio.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 37884 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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