The Ongoing History of New Music, episode 928: Unsung heroes, part 2

In the winter of 1417, a young man named Poggio Bracciolini was searching through a dusty library when he found an odd manuscript sitting forgotten on a shelf. It was a thousand years old, the last surviving copy of a poem by a Roman philosopher named Lucretius.

This was a radical piece of work–heretical, in fact, What it contained was against all the teachings of both God and men. It was called On the Nature of Things.

The problem was that Lucretius posited that the universe operated without gods and that matter was made of tiny, tiny, particles that were in constant motion.

Despite the danger–this was explosive stuff in 1417 that could have resulted in his burning at the stake after many fun-filled days of torture–Poggio translated the poem. Copies were carefully and furtively distributed over the next couple of hundred years.

Lucretius’ notions inspired new ways of thinking, leading to the Rennaissance, the Enlightenment, and all that followed. Bracciiolini’s translation of On the Nature of Things quite literally changed the course of humanity. The intellectual impact was incalculable. Scholars have argued that because of him, the world became modern–that everything we take for granted today in terms of culture and thought happened because Bracciolini found that one remaining manuscript and dared to translate and distribute it.

Yet have you ever heard of Poggio Bracciolini? Probably not. He is one of the great unsung heroes of history.

Now let’s apply the same sort of thinking to the history of rock. Are there similar such people–people who did something that altered the course of music yet we don’t know about them? Absolutely,. And it’s time to give them the credit they deserve.

Songs heard on this program:

  • Area-7, Unsung Hero
  • Methyl Ethyl, Ubu
  • Garbage, Push It
  • Sinead O’Connor, I Am Stretched on Your Grace
  • Sex Pistols, Anarchy in the UK
  • Bam Bam, Ground Zero
  • Barenaked Ladies, Pinch Me (spoofed version)

Eric Wilhite has prepared this playlist.

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, 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.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ 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.

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