Open Eye: Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll ; Britain's First Professor of Popular Music Is a Granny Who's a Fan of Pink Floyd and Jimi Hendrix, Reports Yvonne Cook
Cook, Yvonne, The Independent (London, England)
The Beatles sang about revolution, and ended up as part of the establishment, receiving their MBE insignia from the Queen. The world of rock and pop music abounds in paradox, and nowhere more so than in the person of Sheila Whiteley, Britain's first Professor of Popular Music.
A woman in a field dominated by men, and a grandmother (aged 59) in a domain associated with youth, it comes as little surprise to learn that she followed an unconventional path to an academic career.
Like a lot of OU graduates she has taken the long route to get to where, retrospectively, she ought to have been heading since the Sixties when she fell in love with the music of Jim Morrison and The Doors, Cream, Pink Floyd and, her greatest hero, Jimi Hendrix.
Popular music is such a new field for serious academic study that it has very few professors anywhere. Her new position has brought her a form of celebrity, even an appearance on TV's Ready, Steady Cook. "The presenter asked me what sort of music I would like and I said `Moloko' and he said `My mother would never be interested in that.' But I have to keep myself up to date."
She publishes learned articles on topics such as A comparison of psychedelic rock and ambient trance and Mick Jagger: an analysis of sexuality, style and image, and heads research for the faculty of Music, Media and Performance at Salford University. She has published three successful books.
It's something she could never have imagined in her days as a single parent, struggling to complete her OU degree and to qualify as a teacher, to support her children.
Although a bright pupil, as a teenager Sheila ducked university in favour of a job in advertising. Rebellious, she nevertheless had been sufficiently authority-oriented to send her father to argue her case with the headmistress, who was under the impression that it was he who was responsible for stifling his daughter's academic potential.
Like many women of her generation, her short career was followed by marriage and children, then a sudden shift of perception as the Sixties' social revolution began to bite. She recalls: "I recognised myself in the music, and the radicalisation and challenging of accepted ideas that was going on."
She and her husband travelled the USA in 1968, working from the east coast to San Francisco. Back in Britain they dropped out of the rat race and went to …
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Publication information: Article title: Open Eye: Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll ; Britain's First Professor of Popular Music Is a Granny Who's a Fan of Pink Floyd and Jimi Hendrix, Reports Yvonne Cook. Contributors: Cook, Yvonne - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: February 6, 2001. Page number: 2. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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