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Monday, 7 August, 2000, 18:01 GMT 19:01 UK
Pop gets its first professor
Jimi Hendrix
"Hendrix was used to being analysed when he was alive," says professor
The first professor of popular music in the United Kingdom has been appointed.

Sheila Whiteley, with an academic background in Jimi Hendrix and a preference for Jim Morrison, is to become the professor of popular music at the University of Salford.

The university has pioneered the study of popular music and culture, offering undergraduate degree courses and postgraduate research in the theory and practice of pop.

You either get people thinking you're pretentious - or else it's the anorak brigade who want to talk about who played rhythm guitar in some band or other

Sheila Whiteley

Now the university's Music, Media and Performing Arts Research Centre has been given the academic status of having its own professorship.

Although she says that "snobbery" has held back the serious study of popular music, Professor Whiteley is confident of its intellectual rigour.

"People might think of popular music as being ephemeral and commercial, but it can be much more difficult to analyse than classical music," she says.


As the author of three books, including a study of the relationship between hallucinogenic drugs and music, Professor Whiteley says that over the last 30 years there has been a growing acceptance of the academic legitimacy of the subject.
Jim Morrison
The professor of pop includes Jim Morrison and Pink Floyd among her personal favourites

However she admits to a reluctance to telling people at parties about her new job title.

"You either get people thinking you're pretentious - or else it's the anorak brigade who want to talk about who played rhythm guitar in some band or other."

But she rejects the idea that luminaries such as Jimi Hendrix would have been surprised to find themselves studied as part of a postgraduate degree course.

"Hendrix was used to being scrutinised when he was alive - and people were always analysing the issues that he made stands over."

Although keeping up with developments in drum 'n bass and garage music, her own preferences are for an earlier era in music - with favourites including Jim Morrison and the Doors, Pink Floyd and Jimi Hendrix.

Now a grandmother and general secretary of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music, Professor Whiteley had her own first-hand experiences of the 1960s musical counter culture when she travelled from England to California.

But she says that by the time she arrived in San Francisco the "hucksters were moving in" and the "peace and love was beginning to peter out".

The fact that over 30 years later she is making an academic discipline out of the music does not take away any of the original pleasure.

"If it has sufficient musicality in the first place, then it will withstand investigation."

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