Tina Weymouth is a composer, producer and musician, is a founding member of two pioneering music groups: the rock group Talking Heads (active January 1975 - December 1991) and the funk hip-hop group Tom Tom Club (active March 1981 – March 2014). Weymouth, the third child or eight, was born at Naval Air Station, Coronado, California, November 22, 1950, to a naturalized French mother and a US Navy fighter pilot.
An early aptitude for the arts led her, at twelve, to study drawing at the Corcoran School of Art in Washington, DC. At thirteen she toured with a Maryland group of English handbell ringers. She met future husband, Kentucky-born Chris Frantz, at the Rhode Island School of Design, where she graduated with a BFA in painting in 1974.
After moving to New York City, Weymouth, a self-taught folk guitarist, was persuaded to join Frantz and fellow musician David Byrne, of Baltimore, as bassist of a rock group they would call Talking Heads. In the summer 1975 the band came to the attention of rock critics among audiences at CBGB on the Bowery. With Weymouth on bass, Frantz on drums, and lead singer Byrne of guitar, the trio found itself adopted by the new “punk” avant-guard revolution that gave us Patti Smith, Ramones, Blondie, and Television. Signed in 1976 to Sire Records, they were later joined by Jerry Harrison on guitar and keyboards.
Weymouth and Frantz were wed in Kentucky in 1977. Rolling Stone declared their 1977 debut album, Talking Heads: 1977, “and absolute triumph” and “one of the definitive records of the decade.” Together they made three more pioneering rock albums before Byrne and Harrison left in 1981 to pursue solo projects, impelling Weymouth to ask Frantz to join her in a project of their own, an eponymously titled album, Tom Tom Club, that earned them their first gold album following two chart singles, “Wordy Rappinghood” and “Genius of Love.”
The effect of Tom Tom Club’s success was to bring Taking Heads an unexpected boost that brought the quartet together for five more years of concert tours and four more studio albums that earned them gold and platinum sales. Stop Making Sense, a film produced by Talking Heads and directed by Jonathan Demme, documented the final three performances of their last US tour in 1983.
As Tom Tom Club, Weymouth and Frantz have recorded six studio albums and one live. Additionally, the team of Weymouth and Frantz produced two albums for Ziggy Marley and The Melody Makers, the first of which won the 1988 Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album, as it included the chart-topping R&B hit “Tumblin Down,” a single which heavily sampled Tom Tom Club’s “Genius of Love.” That song, sample over a hundred times, also fostered hits for Mariah Carey on her 1995 platinum sales album, Fantasy, as well as for Grand Master Flash and The Furious Five’s 1982 cover version, “It’s Nasty (Genius of Love).”
Other productions outside of their own groups include the 1994 album Rei Azucar by the platinum best-selling Argentinean group, Los Fabulosos Cadillacs. Talking Heads were inducted into the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame in 2002. Weymouth is currently in the studio crafting music for the couple’s latest project, an electronic duo dubbed “Chris and Tina,” as Frantz writes a memoir, titled Remain in Love, scheduled for a 2020 release on St. Martin’s Press.
During This Time
1966 - Today: Struggle for Justice
Feminism in the late 1960s was aided by President Kennedy, who formed the President’s Commission on the Status of Women in 1961, and his successor, President Johnson, who backed passage of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibiting discrimination based on race, sex, national origin, or religion. Difficulties in implementing the law through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) led a group of women in 1966 to create the National Organization for Women (NOW), demanding “action to bring American women into full participation in the mainstream of American society now.”
A younger group called for a more radical approach to social change than simply considering what was possible to achieve politically. “Women’s liberation” demanded freedom without limitation. Some took part in consciousness-raising groups, others demonstrated against the Miss America pageant, and many discussed their expectations of mutual enjoyment of sex. They established rape crisis centers, domestic shelters, and women’s studies programs. Title IX of the federal Education Amendments Act also increased pressure on universities to hire more women faculty and expand the number of female college athletes. Activist protest among gays and lesbians, such as the Stonewall Riot, symbolized this group’s potential to resist oppression.
Under pressure, many states repealed legislation prohibiting abortion. In 1973, the Supreme Court legalized its availability to women in Roe v. Wade. Also in 1973, the Senate and the House of Representatives passed the ERA, and states began its ratification.
Yet, dissension arose in the ranks of the movement, as it had earlier after passage of the 19th amendment. Feminists disagreed as to whether pornography should be banned or protected as a form of free speech, and whether lesbian identities should be kept secret or disclosed. Black women were more concerned with poverty and welfare in their communities than with personal career advancement; for them, sterilization abuse was more important than abortion, and they were deeply insulted by attacks on the African American family as matriarchal and dysfunctional.
A backlash was growing in the 1970s, along with a New Right in politics. The ERA was defeated and opposition to abortion increased. Conflicts between pro-life and pro-choice candidates have impacted every presidential campaign since then.
Still, gains have been made in many areas. From 1960 to 2000, increasing numbers of women sought entry to higher education, and bachelor’s degrees awarded to them increased from forty to sixty percent. Definitions of marriage have changed, as when courts gave full rights and responsibilities and the name of marriage to same-sex civil unions in Connecticut in 2008. The Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas hearings in 1991 highlighted concern about sexual harassment on the job, and the number of sexual harassment cases filed with the EEOC have increased, as have judgments in favor of the women. Finally, in 2009, women crossed the fifty percent threshold and became the majority of the American workforce. Once largely confined to repetitive manual jobs, now they are running organizations that once treated them as second-class citizens.
The Women’s Movement has changed women’s lives, influenced the economy, and made debate about their roles, family life, and sexual conventions central to national politics and American history.
Special thanks to Barbara E. Lacey, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of History, St. Joseph's College (Hartford, CT) for preparing these historical summaries.