Sally Ride, who at age 32 became the first American woman in space, passed away yesterday from pancreatic cancer at age 61.
“The First American Woman in Space.” That’s an impressive title, and it must have been great to bust that out at a high school reunion when someone boasted about being a regional VP at Procter & Gamble or having a timeshare in Aspen.
“Wow, regional vice president, that’s really impressive. I was the First f*cking American Woman in Space.”
These days, the space program is pretty much an afterthought to most people. But when I was growing up, the Apollo moon missions and space shuttle launches were a big deal, and so was Ms. Ride.
Amazingly, according to her New York Times obit (which you can read here), Sally first got into the astronaut business when she was studying astrophysics and English at Stanford and saw a NASA newspaper ad looking for astronauts. I guess the job market was a little more robust back then.
Sally Ride is a perfect name for a pioneering woman astronaut; it sounds like a name from a children’s book about an all-American space traveler.
She is also one of the few people whose name appeared in two classic songs long before she became famous. First was Wilson Pickett’s 1965 hit “Mustang Sally,” which features the refrain “Ride Sally Ride.”
Nine years later, Lou Reed did a tune called “Ride Sally Ride” on his Sally Can’t Dance LP. Judging by Lou’s proclivities at the time, it is safe to assume that “Sally” was street code for smack, junkies, drag queens, hookers or some combination thereof.
R.I.P. Sally Ride. You didn't live forever, but you had a great ride.
Get on iTunes:
“Mustang Sally” by Wilson Pickett
“Ride Sally Ride” by Lou Reed