Schooled by Musical Geniuses
Musical success is often attributed to sheer talent, hard work, and maybe some dumb luck. The high intelligence level associated with great musical talent, however, is rarely addressed.
“While musicians [have] similar verbal capabilities to non-musicians, the musicians’ ability to memorize new words was markedly better, too. Perhaps most importantly, the musicians’ IQ scores were higher overall than those who spent their lives listening to music rather than performing it.” – “Musicians Are Probably Smarter Than The Rest Of Us,” Huffington Post
We’re fortunate that the following brainy artists have chosen to share their gift of song with us while still pursuing various academic endeavors:
Art Garfunkel, Simon & Garfunkel
Six time Grammy Award Winner, Art Garfunkel, of Simon & Garfunkel, earned both a B.A. in Art History and an M.A. in Math from Columbia University. He reads constantly and maintains a list of every book he’s read since 1968. Garfunkel is also a poet and author, releasing a book of original work in 1989 and a memoir in 2017.
Greg Graffin, Bad Religion
Greg Graffin, frontman of influential punk group Bad Religion, double-majored in Anthropology and Geology at UCLA. He stayed at UCLA to complete a Master’s in Geology and then went to Cornell to get a PhD in Zoology. He has since taught classes on Biology and Evolution at UCLA and Cornell.
“Queen of R&B,” Alicia Keys, graduated high school at the age of 16 as class valedictorian. She was offered a full scholarship to Columbia, but lucky for us, decided to focus on her music instead. Keys is known for her intelligent social activism and in 2003, she co-founded an organization to alleviate HIV in Africa. She also was a featured speaker at the Women’s March on Washington in 2017.
Tom Morello, Rage Against the Machine
Tom Morello, guitarist for Rage Against the Machine, Audioslave, and The Nightwatchmen, is one of the most unabashedly political musicians of all time. He’s got the smarts to back his statements, having graduated from Harvard with a B.A. in Social Studies. He later worked in the office of U.S. Senator Alan Cranston.
Award-winning musician and actor, John Legend, graduated salutatorian from high school and gained admission to Harvard as well as scholarships to Morehouse and Georgetown. He ultimately chose to attend University of Pennsylvania, graduating in 1999 with a B.A. in English.
Dexter Holland, The Offspring
Dexter Holland, frontman of SoCal rockers The Offspring, graduated from high school as class valedictorian. He then earned both a B.S. and M.S. from the University of Southern California. Though he started on a PhD, he soon left to focus on his increasingly successful band. Holland eventually went back to academics, and was awarded a PhD in molecular biology from USC in 2017.
Brian May, Queen
Brian May, lead guitarist for Queen, studied physics at Imperial College London. He began the PhD process, but put it on hold to perform and record with Queen. He later returned to Imperial College and completed his thesis, earning a PhD in Astrophysics in 2008.
Sterling Morrison, Velvet Underground
Sterling Morrison, guitarist and founding member of groundbreaking band the Velvet Underground, attended City College of New York for his undergraduate degree. Morrison later spent time in Austin and studied for a PhD in Medieval Literature at the University of Texas, completing the degree in 1986.
Tom Scholz, Boston
Tom Scholz, founder of rock group Boston, graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with both a B.S. and M.S. in Mechanical Engineering. He recorded the majority of Boston’s first album in his self-constructed home studio and has patented over 30 inventions.