Famous musicians who are VERY smart
It’s normal to be good at something. It’s great to be great at it. It’s impressing to be good at two things and astonishing to be really, really talented at both. For some artists music talent and academic achievements go together and learning that your favorite rock star is not only a brilliant performer and composer but also has a Ph.D. in molecular biology, makes them even more awesome that they already are. Today we pay our respects to those multi-talented individuals who have not only influenced culture with their music but have also contributed to the world of science.
First stop, Brian May. You probably know him as the amazing guitarist of the legendary band Queen. What you probably don’t know is that there is another area he’s brilliant in – astrophysics. May got an honors degree in Physics and Mathematics from the Imperial College of London. He was determined to obtain doctorate degrees in both departments when his rock career skyrocketed. While he left his teaching career to pursue musical success with Queen, he never gave up on his physics activities and published several papers throughout the years. One of May’s more recent works (2006) is the book ‘Bang! – The Complete History of the Universe’. He finally completed his Ph.D. in astrophysics in October 2007. The title of his thesis was ‘A Survey of Radial Velocities in the Zodiacal Dust Cloud’. He became Chancellor of Liverpool John Moores University just one month later. By the way, he also contributed to the probe New Horizon’s mission to Pluto. There’s no doubt, Brian May is AWESOME.
Yep, the girl who sang ‘Tik Tok’ and ‘Take it Off’ is actually smart. Evidently, she scored a near-perfect 1500 (out of a 1600 max score) on her SAT’s. Seventeen magazine even claimed she was practically a genius with an IQ of 140 in a cover story from 2010. Separate sources have also confirmed that Ke$ha turned down a scholarship offer at the (Columbia-affiliated) Barnard College. Instead of taking the opportunity to study psychology at a prestigious institution, she dropped out of high school and became a pop star. The fact that she now makes millions out of surprisingly catchy and extremely stupid songs about sex and booze, but still managed to get a GED at some point, leads us to believe that things actually turned out quite well for her. We’re just not sure.
The very blonde dude with the high-pitched voice from Offspring, and one of the band’s co-founders, Dexter Holland, graduated as valedictorian of his high school (meaning he was chosen to deliver the speech at the graduation ceremony. Then he moved to the University of Southern California and became a bachelor of biology. Later he obtained a Master’s degree in molecular biology. He intended to do a doctorate in the same college but when the Offspring started getting the recognition they deserved, he dedicated himself to his music career instead. Recently Holland has returned to the Molecular Biology program to finish his doctorate studies. If this isn’t cool enough for you, you should know that Dexter is also a successful hot sauce entrepreneur and a licensed aircraft pilot.
If you know who The Descendents are you know the nerdy cartoon character which has generally become their logo. Well, this drawing was based on the punk band’s frontman Milo Aukerman. Their first album is another clue towards his relative nerdiness as it is titled ‘Milo Goes to College.’ Milo was literally going to college at the time – the University of California, San Diego, to be precise. The band’s artistic career was paused numerous times and their creative work – interrupted, because Milo’s passion for learning just kept him going back to college. He finally obtained his Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of Wisconsin, Madison but the group kept enduring hiatuses and reunions as Milo kept on a steady cycle of rejoining his music buddies and then returning to his science career over and over again. The Descendents are presently dormant, but those who are familiar with the band’s history have a good feeling about Milo coming back pretty soon.
Now here’s an amazing man. Greg Graffin graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles, with a double-major in anthropology and geology. He then got a Master’s degree in geology and went to Cornell Unversity where he obtained a Ph.D. in zoology. Graffin did all this WHILE singing and touring with his successful band Bad Religion, which he co-founded when he was only 15 years old. Crazy. As he’s obviously proven that he’s superhuman it’s no sweat for him to still be doing both things simultaneously and with great success. He’s still an active part of Bad Religion but he also teaches Life Sciences at UCLA. Graffin filmed and co-produced a pilot for a TV show called Punk Professor but later commented: “It’s sitting on someone’s shelf waiting to be developed. I’m not actually pursuing it.” He has written two books and is currently working on a third one. ‘A Professor and Punk Rocker Discuss Science, Religion, Naturalism & Christianity’ was a series of correspondences between himself and historian Preston Jones. He co-authored ‘Anarchy Evolution’ with writer and scientist Steve Olson. In 2015 he released ‘The Population Wars’, which is “a bit more in depth about the process of evolution.” Impressed? You should be.
Known as the founder and guitarist of Boston (the band, not the city), Tom Scholz is a VERY intelligent and educated man who also had a VERY successful career in another field before becoming a superstar. He graduated from MIT with a Masters degree in mathematical engineering. When he decided to follow the path of rock, he was working as senior product design engineer for Polaroid. After his band took off, Scholz founded his own music technology company – Scholz Research & Development. Their most popular product, the Rockman guitar amp, is still sold by Dunlop Manufacturing, to whom Tom sold his company in 1995. Scholz himself designed the amp and every unit is still manufactured with his signature on it.
(Paul) Simon & (Art) Garfunkel
The famous folk duo came together very early on in the brilliant musicians lives. The two were living in the same neighborhood of Queens, New York, and were singing and writing together from age 11. They performed in talent shows school plays and it’s no surprise their synchronization was so perfect later on. They even recorded a song called ‘Hey, Schoolgirl’ while they were still teenagers under the name of Tom & Jerry, chosen by their first record label. Their paths split for some time after high school, Art going to Columbia College and Paul – to Queens College. Garfunkel earned a degree in Art History and a Masters in Mathematics at Columbia University. Simon majored in English and then attended Brooklyn Law School for a short time but his desire to pursue a career in music was greater. The two reunited as a duo and started recording together in 1962. You know the rest.
Morello is legendary for his genius guitar work with bands Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave. He’s also half-Kenyan, being the son of the country’s first United Nations ambassador. His mother was a very active American who boldly fought against the censorship efforts of Tipper Gor. Morello once described himself as “the only anarchist in a conservative high school.” He got his Masters degree in the Social Studies program of Harvard University. Since then he has been strongly involved in multiple social causes. A brief time he spent working in the office of U.S. Senator Alan Cranston convinced him to never seek a career in politics. In 2008, in a Wall Street Journal interview, he said: “I am the half-Kenyan Harvard grad from Illinois who’s not running for President this year.”
A brilliant solo artist and the beautiful half of Eurythmics, Annie Lennox has a very solid academic background in the field of music, which is pretty obvious from her amazing work. After she was accepted at the prestigious Royal Academy of Music the Scottish girl moved to London in the early ’70s. For three years she studied piano, flute and harpsichord and then, luckily for everyone, she met her future music partner Dave Stewart. The creative chemistry between the two was obvious from the beginning and they immediately started recording together. Before creating Eurythmics, they performed under the name The Tourists. Apart from being an amazing musician, Lennox is a devoted humanitarian. During her career, she has received numerous honors for her efforts in raising awareness for HIV and AIDS and was appointed the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II. She has won four GRAMMY awards and an Academy Award. Long live Annie!
This concludes our list of amazingly smart musicians. We hope you’re inspired, ‘cause we sure are! Now head over to Drooble and meet the people who you can shape an amazing musical future with. See you there!