10 Highly Educated Rock Musicians

"If you want to get laid, go to college. If you want an education, go to the library." - Frank Zappa.

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Frank Zappa once said "If you want to get laid, go to college. If you want an education, go to the library." The message of that quote can stir up quite a debate, but right now we'll focus on Mr. Zappa's fellow rock musicians who opted to mix the "get laid" approach with becoming rock royalty. The list of highly educated rock stars awaits below.

1. Philip Taylor Kramer

"Who the hell is Philip Taylor Kramer?" you might ask. Philip Taylor Kramer was the bassist of Iron Butterfly, the band that gave us what is considered the first heavy metal song of all time, 1968's "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida." Kramer has a fascinating, and fairly disturbing story, and it can said that his education and subsequent work play a major role in it.

Taylor was a member of the band only for a brief period of time between 1974 and 1977, long after their golden era. But after leaving the band, Philip went back to college and got his degree in aerospace engineering, leading to a stint working for the US Department of Defense.

During the '90s, Philip founded a high-tech multimedia company called Total Multimedia Inc, and did pioneering work in the domain of video compression technology.

On February 12, 1995, Kramer was supposed to pick up associate Greg Martini and Greg's wife from the airport. But he called his wife and said that plans have changed, assuring her he will be there to surprise her. Then he called his old friend, Iron Butterfly drummer Ron Bushy and said "Bush... It's Taylor, I love you more than life itself." Then, he called his wife and told her "Whatever happens, I'll always be with you." Finally, at 11:59 AM, he called 911 and said "This is Philip Taylor Kramer... I am going to kill myself."

And then he vanished. Reports say that he worked overtime and hadn't slept for two weeks prior to his disappearance. It was four years later that the remains of Philip's 1993 Ford Aerostar van were found at the bottom of a Malibu ravine. His remains were inside the vehicle.

That was quite a digression, back to educated musicians now.

2. Dexter Holland (The Offspring)

It might seem a tad surprising, but "Why Don't You Get a Job" and "Pretty Fly (For a White Guy)" singer, Dexter Holland of The Offspring, has a bachelor's degree in Biology and his master's in Molecular Biology from the University of Southern California. He actually commenced a PhD in molecular biology, but was prevented from finishing the job by the band's success.

As of 2013, Holland is a doctoral student at the Laboratory of Viral Oncology and Proteomics Research and has published a paper titled "Identification of Human MicroRNA-Like Sequences Embedded within the Protein-Encoding Genes of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus" with a group of co-authors in March 2013.

3. Jim Morrison

Known as a voracious reader, as well as a heavy drinker and drug addict, as well as the voice of The Doors and a true icon of rock, Jim Morison was also an owner of an undergraduate degree in film from UCLA. He fetched it in 1965.

4. Duff McKagan

Former Guns N' Roses bassist Duff McKagan didn't have much interest in higher education in his younger days. He was a high school dropout focused on reaching rock 'n' roll super-stardom, which he very much did. But after nearly drinking himself to death, Duff sobered up and decided to distract himself from the alluring power of booze by looking at the band's old financial records. He couldn't understand a thing, and he felt embarrassed.

Embarrassed but determined, and so began Mr. McKagan's journey of higher education. He enrolled in a community college and ultimately achieve a bachelor's degree in Business from Seattle University. Duff eventually received his high-school diploma in 2012 and he also owns a financial management company called Meridian Rock.

5. Thom Yorke

Back in 1988, Thom Yorke decided to put his band On a Friday on a hiatus so he could earn his bachelors degree in fine art and English from the University of Exeter. Shorty after Thom and his bandmates complete their college obligations, they renamed themselves to Radiohead, got a record deal and went on to sell 30 million albums around the world.

6. Tom Scholz (Boston)

Before founding Boston and selling over 30 million albums in the States alone, guitarist Tom Scholz obtained a masters degree in mechanical engineering from MIT in 1970. He's also the man who invented the Rockman amplifier, and has designed the majority of the group's recording gear.

Actually, the greater part of the band's first two albums, which have a stellar sound and have sold 24 million copies combined thanks to such hits as "More Than a Feeling," "Smokin'," "Peace of Mind" and "Don't Look Back," was recorded and produced in Tom's basement. The engineering knowledge Mr. Scholz had previously obtained must have played at least some kind of role in the process.

7. Danny Carey

Tool drummer Danny Carey is a very notable alumni of the University of Missouri, Kansas City. It was during his time in college that Danny began expanding his studies in percussion with theory into the principles of geometry, science, and metaphysics. He also delved into Sacred Geometry and certain hidden aspects of life and the occult. All of this made a crucial stamp on Carey's drumming style.

8. Tom Morello

After graduating high school with honors in 1982, Rage Against the Machine guitar master Tom Morello went on to study at the prestigious Harvard University, graduating with a bachelor's degree in Social Studies in 1986. And despite spending a short time period at California Democratic Senator Alan Cranston's office, the experience only helped him to decide not to pursue a career in politics. Tom does remain very much prominent in the fields of politics and activism, though.

9. Greg Graffin (Bad Religion)

Punk icons Bad Religion may not seem like a band that nurtures highly-educated individuals, but frontman Greg Graffin has a PhD in zoology at the Cornell University. Not only that, but Greg also became a college lecturer and has lectured courses in life sciences and paleontology at the University of California, Los Angeles and evolution at Cornell University.

10. Brian May

Before winning the UG Showdown became his greatest life accomplishment (kidding, kidding, easy now), Brian May contributed his guitar mastery to form the magic of Queen. But even before that, he graduated with honors in 1968 and began working towards his PhD in astrophysics.

Queen prevented Brian from getting his PhD for nearly 40 years, but this gentleman never lost his passion for the stars and in 2006 he was invited back to the Imperial College London to finish what he had started. In 2007, 37 years after he began working on his doctorate, Mr. May had finally acquired it.

One of the astrophysicists who worked with May said: "I have no doubt that Brian May would have had a brilliant career in science had he completed his PhD in 1971. Nevertheless, as a fan of Queen, I am glad that he left science temporarily."

So, was Frank Zappa right?

59 comments sorted by best / new / date

    jhasuyash95
    umm.. where's bruce dickinson?
    legendaryjj10
    "10 Highly Educated" This isn't a top 10 list, it's just a list of 10 who have received education. It's just cool info and a bit of motivation to go learn more in post-secondary school.
    thwump64
    Really, Bad Religion doesn't seem like a band to have educated people? Have you read any of their lyrics?
    EpicClapton
    Bad Religion is really the most intellectual band I can think of... And as far as I know, Greg Graffin does not only have a PhD in zoology but also master's degrees in anthropology and geology. Also, guitarist Brett Gurewitz is very literate with regard to 20th century belles-lettres.
    bradd101
    Agreed. Bad Religion have always been one of the bands at the forefront of socio-political commentary in music
    EntropicDiscord
    Milo Aukerman from the Descendents. They even named their debut album "Milo Goes To College".
    the glue man
    I was hoping someone would mention him. He's a biochemist on the East Coast and has studied up to a post-docterate.
    Silverpack
    You call having an undergraduate degree being highly-educated ? Well sure, it still takes patience and skill to have one, but I wouldn't call that a mark of high-education.
    esky15
    Full Definition plural uni·ver·si·ties 1 :an institution of higher learning providing facilities for teaching and research and authorized to grant academic degrees; specifically :one made up of an undergraduate division which confers bachelor's degrees and a graduate division which comprises a graduate school and professional schools each of which may confer master's degrees and doctorates 2 :the physical plant of a university
    arnolddrummer
    Considering only about 35% of the US population have actually completed bachelor's degrees, I would say it's appropriate.
    jacobdubya
    Rivers Cuomo. Between Blue Album and Pinkerton, he enrolled at Harvard. Eventually graduated cum laude.
    DeafPolka
    John Garcia (Kyuss) is a vet, doesn't that take even longer to become than a doctor? He must be highly educated but I don't know for sure
    Corner9
    It's usually 4 + 4, but med school requires residency to be completed afterwards, which is a few more years. So they don't have med school beat yet
    Pastafarian96
    Professor Brian Cox.
    Nero Galon
    Yes he was a keyboard player in D:REAM but is more known for his work as a physicist.
    Pastafarian96
    so? Philip Taylor Kramer was a bass player before he became a aerospace engineer.
    Nero Galon
    Just saying that Cox is more known for his academic achievements whereas Kramer is known by the majority if at all for his musical endeavours.
    tradiohead15
    Thom Yorke <3
    Darth Crow
    What about Mangini? "After graduating from Waltham Senior High School in 1981, Mangini put aside his music studies to pursue a computer science major at Bentley University. After graduating Mike started programming software for the Patriot Missile program. At the same time, he was working on a program that studied the links between the human brain and body."
    thekthy
    I believe every member of Radiohead has a degree. Jonny has a double major in Psychology and Music, Phil has a degree in English Literature, and I think Colin has one in Foreign Languages (I think, so don't quote me on that).
    jacobdubya
    Jonny was working on a double major in psychology and music, but quit when the band got signed. He's the only member of the band without a degree.
    haggai.samuelso
    Information is not knowledge. Knowledge is not wisdom. Wisdom is not truth. Truth is not beauty. Beauty is not love. Love is not music. Music is THE BEST
    JohnnySardine
    Hugh Cornwell and Jean Jacques Burnel of the Stranglers had degrees in bio-chemistry and economics respectively.
    AngelEyesRipper
    Mark Knopfler studied journalism for a year in 1968. He then graduated with a degree in English with the University of leeds after studying for 3 years from 70 till 73, and in 1993, he received an honorary music doctorate from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne. (lol)
    real182
    Pete Doherty
    anguskilminster
    1st class degree in being a waste of skin!
    hiya77
    4 A-levels. Two were A's. He got into Queen Mary's to study English Literature but dropped out in his 1st year. 7 A* at GCSE.
    notevenklaus
    Honourary degree in Pharmacy perhaps? Chemistry even? I'm pretty sure free-basing uses a process similar to those found in a Chem lab. Love ya Pete, stay clean!
    henrihell
    Although he's a high school dropout, I think David Gunn from King 810 should be on the list. Just read his essays on their website: http://www.king810.com/essays
    legendaryjj10
    High School dropout (assuming they never went back) and highly educated is an oxymoron. By definition, they did not get further educated, as going to school is a requirement.
    Nitnatsnok
    I dont believe going to school is the only way to further educate yourself.
    elijames21
    Midwest monsters is the best metal album released since the cleansing. But David Gunn isn't that smart...he's self aware, not smart.
    hiya77
    Richey Edward. 3 A's at A-level. 2:1 History degree which he was pissed off about.
    the glue man
    Good overall article. Wish it had Milo Auckerman of the Descendents, who is a biochemist. Emotional part about Kramer, sad story which I've never heard before.
    Lightning_Ray
    Most Pink Floyd members (Richard Wright, Nick Mason and Roger Waters) have college degrees and Roger Taylor from Queen has one as well (Dentistry, I think).
    Wildmen
    In Russia at least half of musicians have a high-degree. But this doesn't make Russian music better
    I got the boot
    Obligatory post about how Nergal has a degree in History which he spent six years studying including a year of Latin for and how he's qualified to be a museum curator.
    sashki
    James Williamson played guitar for the Stooges, then went on to study electronic engineering. He eventually became the vice president of technical standards for Sony.
    pjfuller
    Nate Albert, a Mighty Mighty Bosstones - PolySci / History degrees from Brown. All Umphrey's McGee members have degrees.