Tina Weymouth Biography

Bassist, Singer(1950–)
Tina Weymouth is best known as the bassist in the band The Talking Heads.

Synopsis

Tina Weymouth was born November 22, 1950 in Coronado, California. While attending the Rhode Island School of Design she met Chris Frantz and David Byrne. The three eventually moved to New York City and formed the band Talking Heads in 1974. Weymouth married Frantz and the two created music aside from the Talking Heads, as the Tom Tom Club and The Heads.

Early Life

Martina ("Tina") Michele Weymouth was born on November 22, 1950, in Coronado, California, an affluent town in San Diego County. Her mother, Laure Weymouth, had been born in France, and her father, Ralph Weymouth, was a career U.S. Naval officer who eventually rose to the rank of Rear Admiral. Growing up in a military family in a devoutly Catholic household, Weymouth moved all around the globe as a child. When she was 2, the family moved to Hawaii and then to France, Belgium, Switzerland, Los Angeles and Iceland before finally settling in Washington, D.C. Such frequent moves prevented her from forming any lasting friendships, and as a result Weymouth grew into a painfully shy adolescent. "I was very, very shy," she recalled. "That was because we moved all the time. I had my own inner world." However, as an adult Weymouth has come to see her whirlwind travels as kid as a valuable and confidence-building life experience. "It makes a big difference in what you know you can do in life if experience has taught you you can live anywhere," she said.

As a teenager, Weymouth discovered an outlet for her vibrant inner life in music. At the age of 12, she joined Mrs. Tufts' English Handbell Ringing Group, a prestigious if somewhat obscure Washington, D.C. youth music troupe that traveled all across the mid-Atlantic United States. "We played in churches and schools in places like Pennsylvania, New England, and the World's Fair in New York," Weymouth recalled. "Our repertoire was old English folk songs and medieval melodies, and we all wore Elizabethan costumes." In addition to the hand bells, Weymouth also developed a passion for rock 'n' roll during her teenage years, teaching herself to play to guitar. "I'm a self-taught musician," she says. "I was listening to the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Peter Paul & Mary—a lot of folk, in fact. I learned a folk finger-picking style from one of those Pete Seeger books with little diagrams with numbers for the fingers." And although her natural musical talent was evident from the speed and ease with which she learned, Weymouth admits that she was too unfocused and too isolated to really develop as a musician during her high school years. "I taught myself to play guitar when I was 14, but I didn't stick with it," she said. "No discipline. It was one of those things you'd do alone in your room to get away from your family when you're an adolescent and feel different from everybody else."

After graduating from high school in 1968, Weymouth landed a summer job at the Department of Health, Education and Welfare in Washington, D.C. and then headed off to Barnard College in New York intending to major in French literature and art history. Quickly disenchanted with Barnard, she briefly transferred to Old Dominion University and then transferred back to Barnard before dropping out altogether in 1969. After dropping out of college, Weymouth lived for a short time with her sister in Tulsa, Okalahoma, before returning to Manhattan to live with her brother. Although she stayed only a few months, Weymouth's brief time back in New York City proved a transformative period in her life. "New York opened me up," she remembered. "In New York, somebody is going to say terrible things to you or not say terrible things to you. It doesn't matter. You have no choice. You can't escape it." When Weymouth enrolled at the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence in the fall of 1970, she was an entirely new woman. She showed up to a school orientation meeting totally naked and drenched in green paint. While apparently such acts were more or less par for the course among the radical and experimental student body, it was nevertheless an enormous change from the terribly shy girl Weymouth had been just a few years earlier.

Weymouth's studio mate at the Rhode Island School of Design was named Chris Frantz. In addition to his painting, Frantz was also a skilled drummer who played in a band named The Artistics with guitarist and singer David Byrne. Frantz and Weymouth fell madly in love, and although Weymouth was never a member of The Artistics, she served the band in a hybrid role of biggest fan, muse and occasional lyricist. "I was at every performance and every rehearsal," she recalled. "It was very, very loud. You couldn't stand closer than fifty feet because it was so loud and abusive."

Founding Talking Heads

In 1974, after their graduation from design school, Weymouth, Frantz and Byrne moved to New York City and rented a small loft apartment. Rediscovering her prodigious musical talent, Weymouth taught herself bass within a matter of months, and the trio formed a new band they named Talking Heads. In 1975, playing a mix of covers and old Artistics songs Byrne had written such as "Psycho Killer" and "Warning Sign," Talking Heads gave their debut performance opening for The Ramones at New York's storied CBGB nightclub. The next year they added a fourth member, guitarist Jerry Harrison, and landed a contract with the punk rock label Sire Records.

Weymouth and Frantz married in 1977; that same year, Talking Heads released their first album, Talking Heads: 77, featuring Byrne's old song "Psycho Killer" as its lead single. Although the album achieved only modest sales, it's fascinating mix of 1960s bubblegum pop and the raw, discordant energy of punk rock were unlike anything heard before, and it is now considered among the great alternative rock albums of all time. Talking Heads' 1978 follow up, More Songs About Buildings and Food, featuring the single "Take Me to the River," received high critical praise and improved but still underwhelming sales. Two further albums, Fear of Music (1979) and Remain in Light (1980), also secured good reviews and decent sales, establishing the Talking Heads as one of the most important "new wave" rock bands to emerge during the latter half of the 1970s.

Tom Tom Club and Talking Heads Breakup

In 1981, with Talking Heads on hiatus, Weymouth and Frantz formed an offshoot band named Tom Tom Club, releasing an eponymous album that same year. Somewhat shockingly, the album achieved considerably better sales than any previous Talking Heads effort thanks primarily to the popularity of the single "Genius of Love." Reuniting in 1983, Talking Heads scored one of their most successful albums with Speaking in Tongues, featuring the hit songs "Burning Down the House" and "This Must Be the Place." They followed that with 1985's Little Creatures, a critical darling that also achieved widespread popularity with the singles "And She Was" and "Road to Nowhere." Their next album, True Stories (1986), was highlighted by the single "Wild Wild Life," the music video for which landed in frequent rotation on MTV. Then in 1988, Talking Heads released what turned out to be their final album, Naked. The album's biggest hit, "(Nothing But) Flowers," featured the prophetic lyrics "And as things fell apart/ Nobody paid much attention." The band dissolved shortly afterwards as Byrne turned his focus to his solo career, although no official announcement about the Talking Heads' dissolution was made until 1993.

The Heads

Calling themselves simply The Heads, Weymouth, Frantz and Harrison reunited without Byrne in 1996 to record one more album, No Talking, Just Head, featuring the singles "Damage I've Done" and "Don't Take My Kindness for Weakness." Weymouth and Frantz, who remain married and have two children, Egan and Robin, have also released sporadic albums as the Tom Tom Club including The Good, The Bad, and the Funky (2000) and Genius of Live (2010).

As the bassist of Talking Heads, Weymouth will go down in rock lore as a member of one of the most influential and popular new wave rock bands in history, a band whose music has already begun to assume its rightful place in the canon of great rock 'n' roll. And although Weymouth has recorded music only sporadically since Talking Heads broke up in 1991, she hopes to reassemble the Byrne-less offshoot band The Heads to recreate the sense of fearless experimentation that made Talking Heads such a powerful force when they burst onto the rock scene in the 1970s. "We are the little band that boldly goes forth where no other band dares to go," she proclaimed. "And we hope to pioneer something for other musicians who are in bands, too."

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