9 Rock Stars With Advanced Degrees


It has become fashionable for universities to award rock musicians with honorary degrees: it's an easy way for a college to get some press, attract applicants, and pay respect to creative individuals whose accomplishments sit righteously outside of the realm of academia. That said, there are plenty of rockers who hold college degrees, and even advanced degrees. Here are 9 who can include something other than "hard knocks" under "Education" on their resumes. We looked for rock musicians who have an advanced degree on top of their bachelor's, so well-known brainiacs like Sting and Tom Morello didn't make the cut. Please note, for this list, a doctorate in Shredology wasn't applicable.

  1. Tom Scholz

    The man responsible for birthing in his basement studio such eternal FM radio fodder as "More Than a Feeling" — an incredibly popular, meticulously produced piece of soaring '70s schlock — prepared for rock 'n' roll stardom at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, earning a bachelor's and master's degree in mechanical engineering. Between his advanced education and what he learned at his day job at Polaroid, Scholz was able to create, initially with no assistance from a major label, an album that would become the second biggest selling album in U.S. history.

  2. Phil Alvin

    West Coast quartet The Blasters, featuring lead singer and guitarist Phil Alvin and his brother Dave, played American roots rock, blues, and country with the energy of punk, and gigged throughout the '80s alongside legendary Los Angeles bands such as X, Black Flag, and The Gun Club. After a period of cult success with The Blasters, Alvin returned to UCLA to pursue a master's degree and eventually earn his doctorate in math and artificial intelligence.

  3. Dexter Holland

    Dexter Holland, the man responsible for some of the most watered down, and thoroughly goofy '90s era "punk rock," earned his master's degree in molecular biology from the University of Southern California. Holland was working toward his doctorate when he wisely quit joining The Offspring as their lead singer and thus enjoying the fruits of MTV-fueled rock stardom. An early demo by Holland, "Pretty Valedictorian for a Punk Rocker," was deemed too scholarly by his bandmates.

  4. Greg Gaffin

    From '80s hardcore, to a healthy love for animals. Bad Religion's lead singer Greg Gaffin is also an author and professor, holding a doctorate in zoology from Cornell University. Gaffin's dissertation dealt with evolutionary biology, history, and philosophy. Keeping in line with Bad Religion's visceral yet intellectual approach to hardcore punk, Gaffin co-authored, with historian Preston Jones, Is Belief in God Good, Bad or Irrelevant? A Professor and Punk Rocker Discuss Science, Religion, Naturalism, and Christianity. In addition to teaching and writing, Gaffin continues to tour with Bad Religion.

  5. Brian May

    Brian May, guitarist and guitar orchestrator for Queen, was studying astrophysics at Imperial College London when the band took off. With the one and only Freddie Mercury on vocals, Queen pretty much conquered the hearts and minds of even the most butch of rock fans, with hits that include the Baroque hootenanny "Bohemian Rhapsody," and the jocks-sing-it-but-don't-get-that-it's-a-gay-anthem classic, "We Are the Champions." At some point, May decided he should make sure he had a job to fall back on, just in case the rock thing didn't work out, and returned to school to finish his doctorate.

  6. Karl Precoda

    Karl Precoda, former lead guitarist for the West Coast "paisley underground" band The Dream Syndicate, holds a doctorate in English and currently teaches cinema and cultural studies courses at Virginia Tech. Led by singer Steve Wynn, The Dream Syndicate, in spite of wearing their psychedelic and feedback drenched influences on their sleeve, were a hit with music critics and fans of guitar distortion and improvised noisy freak outs. Precoda still plays guitar, producing multimedia performances that combine film and music, making him one of the coolest professors on the planet.

  7. David Grubbs

    Guitarist composer David Grubbs certainly knows how to keep busy. Trying to condense the extent of Grubbs' music resume, which includes playing experimental, punk, and psychedelic rock, as well as collaborating with visual artists and writers, into a short paragraph is impossible. He's even spent time as a contributing member of Houston's seminal '60s avant-garde rockers, The Red Krayola, whose founding members were all students at the University of St. Thomas. Grubbs holds a doctorate in English from the University of Chicago, and is an assistant professor of Radio and Sound Art at Brooklyn College, CUNY.

  8. Rubén Blades

    Panamanian singer-songwriter Rubén Blades Bellido de Luna is an extremely popular artist throughout Latin-America, and has gained some additional fans in the U.S., thanks to high-profile musical collaborations with Lou Reed, Sting, Paul Simon, and Derek Trucks. Blades is also an actor, lawyer, and politician, and attempted to win the Panamanian presidency in 1994. He holds a law degree from the University of Panama and a master's in international law from Harvard University.

  9. Kris Kristofferson

    Kris Kristofferson has penned more than a few pieces of classic rock and roll poetry, including "Me and Bobby McGee" and "Sunday Morning Coming Down," made famous by Janis Joplin and Johnny Cash respectively. He earned a Rhodes scholarship to the University of Oxford, earning a Bachelor of Philosophy in English literature. Pressures from his family sent him into a career in the military. But after being offered a position as a professor of English literature at West Point, Kristofferson decided to leave the Army and pursue his passion for songwriting.

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