5 Surprisingly Well-Educated Rock Stars

Feb 25, 2011

All the fame and money that people typically associate with being a rock star comes with its down side. According to popular stereotypes, most musicians are poorly educated, inarticulate party animals who luckily stumbled into a glamorous career path. Here's five rockers who buck that train of thought.

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By Eric Garneau

educated musicians

1. Jim Morrison (vocalist, The Doors)

Anyone wondering where Jim Morrison got his penchant for poetic lyrics and expressive stage performances may want to start looking at the Theater Arts department at UCLA, from which he graduated with a bachelor's degree in 1965. Morrison was apparently a pretty good student; UCLA reported a B+ average for the rock-star-in-training. It wouldn't be long before the Doors broke on through to fame with the 1967 release of 'Light My Fire,' but one gets the feeling that Morrison never forgot the lessons of his alma mater.

2. Rivers Cuomo (lead singer/guitarist, Weezer)

A much-publicized creative slump for alternative kings Weezer led to another event that generated a lot of buzz: frontman and lyricist Rivers Cuomo enrolled in Harvard to earn a bachelor's degree in English. Though it took 11 years, Cuomo finally graduated in 2006. Spin magazine even reported that Cuomo secured a spot in the prestigious honors society Phi Beta Kappa.

3. Tom Morello (guitarist, Rage Against the Machine/Audioslave)

It probably comes as no surprise to Rage Against the Machine fans that Tom Morello has a pretty significant interest in politics. What perhaps does register as surprising: much like Mr. Cuomo, Morello too attended Harvard University, and completed their undergraduate political science curriculum with honors. Though keeping himself busy on the music scene - besides Rage and Audioslave, Morello has been a part of the Nightwatchmen and Street Sweeper Social Club - he's remained active in politics as well, even starting an activist organization called Axis of Justice with System of a Down's Serj Tankian.

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4. Brian May (guitarist, Queen)

Among music fans, Brian May is famous for his unique guitar tones and unmatched vocal harmonies. Among scientists, May might instead be known as the author of Radial Velocities in the Zodiacal Dust Cloud, his thesis in astrophysics, which he presented in 2007. After leaving Imperial College, London to pursue Queen's success in the 1970s, May returned to successfully earn a Ph.D. in his original career choice. His foray into education doesn't stop there: in 2007 May was also named Chancellor of Liverpool John Moores University.

5. Greg Graffin (vocalist, Bad Religion)

Parents and other authority figures outraged by Southern California punk band Bad Religion's semi-anarchic messages may be surprised to learn the pedigree of its lead vocalist and songwriter. Graffin has received a master's degree in geology from UCLA and earned a Ph.D. in zoology from Cornell University. He's earned awards from the Society of Vertebrate Paleontologists and Harvard's Cultural Humanism committee, and authored several texts on evolution and humanism. He currently teaches at UCLA, and in 2010 celebrated Bad Religion's 30th anniversary as well.

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