10 Smartest Musicians

Talented is as talented does.

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10 Smartest Musicians
"We don’t need no education" 

Apparently, not everyone agrees with Pink Floyd. Here are top 10 smartest musicians.

Weird Al Yankovic

How to build a whole empire based on parodies? Ask Weird Al Yankovic aka The King of Parodies.

In addition to this title, he graduated high school at just 16 years old. He was able to do so because his parents had him attend kindergarten a year earlier than is typical. After performing well academically in kindergarten and the first grade, he then was allowed to skip second grade, which ultimately put him about two years ahead of most kids his age in school. He went on to be a straight-A student throughout high school, which eventually culminated in him becoming the valedictorian of his class.

Yankovic did not, however, go into professionally performing right out of high school. Instead, he attended the California Polytechnic State University and earned a degree in architecture. However, while at college, he did have a radio show and continued to write and publish parody songs on the side, including his first hit “My Bologna”, parodying “My Sharona”, which was actually recorded in a men’s bathroom at the university.

He really is white and nerdy.

Maynard James Keenan

It's really hard to define a genius. However, when it comes to his particular craft, Maynard demonstrates talent and intelligence on a level that surpasses most modern musicians. His lyrical quality and vocal skillset bring something so unique and special to the progressive metal genre that he probably deserves the title of “genius.”

As to his overall intelligence and intellect, we can judge from his audio and video clips. Of course, it could all be a shallow attempt at pseudo-intellectualism, but has always come off as well read, collected, and esoteric, all of which seem to be common traits amongst very smart people.

Milo Aukerman

His nerdy glasses are a bit of a giveaway but the frontman of the iconic band the Descendents does a good job of hiding his biochemistry background when he sings about girls, coffee, and food. But Milo really did go to college just like their debut record (Milo Goes to College) claimed and earned himself a PhD in biochemistry from the University of Wisconsin. These days, the brainiac works as a plant researcher in Delaware and tours with the band on his vacation time.

Philip Taylor Kramer

After leaving Iron Butterfly, bassist Philip Taylor Kramer obtained a degree in aerospace engineering. He then began working on the MX missile guidance system for a US Department of Defense contractor. After that, he began working on facial recognition systems, advanced communications and fractal compression systems for CDs. In 1990, he opened a business, Total Multimedia, with Micheal Jackson’s brother, Randy, where they specialized on data compression techniques for CDs. Kramer also worked on a project started by his father that would discredit Einstein’s theories. Part of his research involved a transmission project that could result in communications that went faster than the speed of light. 

Tom Scholz

A skilled guitarist, keyboardist, composer, record engineer, bassist and founder of Boston.... That's only a small part of his merits.

Tom Scholz graduated from MIT at 21 with Mechanical AND Electrical Engineering degrees, with honors. He now has over 30 patents, and gave away most of the money he got from them, to charity. He invented his own line of guitar amplifiers called rockman, founded his own charity foundation.

To top it off, In 2003, he released the Boston CD "Corporate America" which turned out to be prophetic before the crash of 2006.

Skunk Baxter

You've all heard about self-taught guitarists. But what about self-taught expert on weaponry systems? Jeff “Skunk” Baxter, a guitarist known for his stints in the rock bands Steely Dan and The Doobie Brothers, is one of them. After a lengthy studying period at home, he showed off his knowledge by writing a paper on how to convert anti-aircraft Aegis missiles into a missile defense system.

In 1995, he was appointed a chairman of the Civilian Advisory Board for Ballistic Missile Defense. Since then, he's been working with various governmental agencies, from Missile Defense Agency to NASA.

Baxter believes his unique way of looking at terrorism is what has allowed him to do so well in the industry, "We thought turntables were for playing records until rappers began to use them as instruments, and we thought airplanes were for carrying passengers until terrorists realized they could be used as missiles. My big thing is to look at existing technologies and try to see other ways they can be used, which happens in music all the time and happens to be what terrorists are incredibly good at.”

Next time you're wondering if the country is doing everything it can to keep you safe, remember that someone nicknamed "Skunk" is on top of it. It may not help comfort you, but at least you might giggle about it.

Dexter Holland

Born Brian Holland, was a high school valedictorian which is already something. Then he went to the University of Southern California on a premed track, earning degrees in molecular biology. After The Offspring became famous, he put his research on a pause.

And finally, two weeks, ago he got his PhD after researching HIV at the University of Southern California. A rockstar who helps fight the bane of rock music culture and the humanity is a great rockstar indeed. For anybody interested in molecular biology, you can read his thesis here.

Ah, yes, he's also an aircraft captain.

Greg Graffin

Vocalist of the influential punk band Bad Religion, Graffin got his PhD in zoology from Cornell and now he teaches students, who are younger than his band about geology in UCLA. Graffin wrote two books on science and religion, called Is Belief in God Good, Bad or Irrelevant: A Professor and a Punk Rocker Discuss Science, Religion, Naturalism and Christianity (2006) and more recently Anarchy Evolution: Faith, Science and Bad Religion in a World Without God (2010). Maybe God is dead, but punk s sure not!

Bruce Dickinson

He may not have fancy degrees and prestigious alma mater, but calling him smart would be a big understatement. Having IQ of 167, Bruce Dickinson was named by Intelligent Life in 2009 as a living example of a polymath. And with his high IQ, Bruce has a wide range of interests and pursuits.

First of all, he's a self-trained tenor vocalist and a multimillionaire musician with an estimated net worth between $115-130 million dollars. And while voices of other musicians seem to get worse (just look at Ozzy) it looks like Bruce only gets better with age. Second, he's an author, having written several books, and even adding a scriptwriting to his credit. Bruce was a celebrated broadcaster, and had his radio show from 2002-2010 called Bruce Dickinson's Friday Rock Show on BBC Radio.

Bruce is an International Fencing competitor, and he's competed internationally, well known in the circles, was ranked 7th among Britain's best fencers and founded a Fencing Company called the Duelist.

And the last but not least, he is an accredited pilot, who flew Boeing 757 Internationally for a UK based Airline. He also has a transport pilot license, and he flew Iron Maiden's Ed Force One and their gear to all the destinations around the world. In 2010, Dickinson launched Cardiff Aviation LTD in 2010, a Aircraft Maintenance Business. According to the Wall Street Journal, the business had created over 40 jobs by early 2013, and the company was on track to employ up to 100 possibly be the end of the year.

Not bad for a guy who grew up in a small mining town, to a mechanic father, and a mother who worked part-time in a shoe store.

Brian May

Long before he became one of the best guitarists in the world and won UG guitarist showdown, Brian May was an astronomy student, working on his PhD. After Queen, May focused on music, but 30 years later he got back to his thesis on the matter of Motions of Interplanetary Dust. In 2007, Brian May got his PhD from Imperial College in London and wrote a couple of books.

Besides that, he's proficient in 3D photography, animal welfare and was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2005. May fans may have also seen him giving mini-lessons during his concerts. S
uch an honorable man should have been a knight long ago, so it's pretty ironical that the Queen forgot about Brian May.


101 comments sorted by best / new / date

    OK.  How did Maynard get on the list?  Nothing against him but the other guys have serious credentials behind them.  Maynard - he seems well read and intillectual.  Shit, you could have filled the list with the entire band QUEEN.
    because Tool fans would have gone ballistic - they listen to Tool to feel smart.
    Only thing they can get out of that band it seems. 
    Well, they're certainly not getting a new album any time soon... (I bet it gets released tomorrow, just to make me look dumb)
    I love articles like these. I find the entire article fascinating.  Uncanny in so many ways. So many parallels... One thing for sure, is smart, productive people tend to be prolific as seen in all of these guys. Even more uncanny is some of these guys have always been my favorites musically.  Who would have ever thought anyone from Iron Butterfly would have engineering degrees.  In A Gadda Da Vida is one of my all time favorite songs too.  Legend is they were too high to say In a Garden of Eden.  And Weird Al light years ahead of his classmates times 2 and then some. And the guys with multiple degrees - in engineering, too - never ending high respect there.  And all the guys with various biology backgrounds with doctorates to boot.  And a pilot - big bird too. Do a go-around, do a go-around.  Just goes to show, you never know about people. What inspirations.  Let the MUSIC PLAY. ~~~
    Yup, I would have gone ballistic and I do feel smarter after listening to tool - though that's not the only reason I listen to it.   I don't know why that's so hard for people to admit. 
    Someone from Dream Theater seems smarter. 
    Wasn't Mike Mangini actually a professor at Berklee?
    Arent they all professors at Berkeley but the vocalist (and Mike Portnoy, whos now not on the band)?
    No, Portnoy, Myung and Petrucci attended as students in the mid-80s, formed Dream Theater with childhood friends Moore and original vocalist Chris Collins, and then dropped out after their first year or something like that. Mangini is the only one to have been an actual faculty member. Interestingly, checking out his Wiki page shows that he also has a degree in computer sciences from Bentley University and programmed some software for the Patriot Missile program, and working on programs to study links between the human brain and the body.
    still cool. and while they didn't actually finished their education, they also come across as very smart (as well as talented) individuals.
    Most of the time, yeah. Portnoy is probably the most "rock star" of the bunch, and comes across as the "dumbest" member if only because he's kind of dramatic and "party-hard". The rest of the guys definitely do their best to come across as wise and intelligent, if only because they don't really let personal or political drama get the better of them.
    I kind of agree, but to me it seems that after Portnoy left the band, all other members are becoming somehow "less inteligent" and less interesting. Lyrics that Petrucci writes nowadays are often just horrible! And they seem to lack musical creativity. Although I do understand that they are not getting younger each day...
    I dunno about their lyrics. "The Astonishing" is so cheesy it requires a wine pairing, for sure, but the lyrics on ADTOE and their self-titled record are not bad at all, in my opinion. I've always considered Dream Theater's lyrics to be among some of the best out there, and I haven't really noticed a decline in their quality.  Musical creativity... they have kind of fallen into a particular sound that they're sticking with, I'll give you that. But I like that sound, and I don't really mind that they have. It's what works for their current lineup and I see no reason to mess with it.  "The Astonishing" could have used fewer ballads, and nearly every song ends with the same five-note pattern, but ADTOE and DT are musically pretty fine records.
    I agree about their current sound. I really don't like when a band produces songs that are difficult to tell apart. And actually ADTOE kind of does sound like that to me. Except for Breaking All Illusions, that one I love! But lyrics, overall creativity, the concept of Astonishing seemed really cheesy to me. And while I absolutely adore the music in The Count Of Tuscany, the songs lyrics are pretty horrible, imo.
    What I will say is that Portnoy was kind of the comic relief and the "soul" of the band, so I definitely agree that the band has gotten a lot less interesting, personality-wise, without him. Now they're pretty much a band of five quiet scholars with no drama or pomp and circumstance about them.
    You have to be at least somewhat smart to own and operate a successful business out of pure interest. He went from being in the military, to in a band, to owning an operating a winery. Literally nobody makes those kinds of career transitions and is actually successful doing so
    You know he is actually quite the dipshit? 46 & 2 is just one example of him making a really dumb mistake. Probably based it on a heap of shit he read on the Internet and called it "research".
    True, he may not have a degree in science, but you can't underestimate the power of language and social observation. He has also been an actor and part of 2 other active bands and owns a successful vineyard (which is bloody hard work). Although I am surprised that professor Brian Cox wasn't on the list?????
    Owning a vineyard and making wine are not the same thing. I rather doubt Maynard clears irrigation ditches or ties vines.
    I know I work on them....You can't just go into owning a vineyard, you still have to put in the time and gain the Viticulture expirence.
    Maynard isn't some dipshit who just owns a vineyard and somebody else makes the wine for him. He's hands on. It's well known that Tool has to schedule their tours around Maynard's wine making season.
    You absolutely can. And then you pay someone to manage it for you, and hope that you don't end up selling vinegar that cost you $1000 a liter to produce. That's what investing is about, if you have enough money.
    You literally can, but that isn't truly investing as it isn't sustainable or financially viable. Someone who has more money than sense may through cash at something and just hope it works, but if you want it to be a success you need to know what you are investing in, and Maynard has been successful. There is a lot more to making wine than simply planting, picking and squashing.
    And Maynard absolutely doesn't tie or prune vines. He shows up sometimes for picking, processing and bottling. He has professionals to handle the actual work.
    Maybe he does sometimes, I imagine he doesn't have time to prune and tether the vines consistently, but that's a normal part of being a wine maker, you need laborers for that. He still would be involved with marketing, tasting and I imagine a certain amount of cellar duties.  Oversite of the terre is a big job for a wine maker too, knowing which vines to use, which soil to plant in, understanding how humidity and weather will effect the vines and grapes, and most importantly when to harvest. As for as I am aware he has a hands on approach with all this as it is essential for a wine maker.
    apart from the vineyard which is insignificant to what other people have done you pretty much described every musician in the world. or human if you take away the active bands part. Looking around and having a half assed opinion doesn´t make you a genius   
    I don't think he's a genius, but I think he is a lot more interesting than a lot of other musicians, I think it would be rather an ignorant statement to call it half-arsed. If you notice I stated Prof Brian Cox should of been on the list.
    intellect is not all about college degrees or "credentials" i think its more about ability of survival, and who has the wits to survive and thrive also known as common sense which is so very uncommon anymore
    Steel Panter's Michael Starr has a PhD in literature, but he doesn't like to talk about it
    Honorary, i believe. But still has one. So, pretty cool!
    I think it is not honorary. On Wikipedia it says that he even worked as a teaching assistant at some Texas university...
    Tom Morello graduating from Harvard doesnt make the list, but Maynard makes it for being a bit out there.
    Yabba Who
    Go watch a Frank Zappa interview from the 1980's then re-do this list.
    Not sure why you got downvoted unless this was meant as a list of the smartest living musicians. Frank was undeniably an incredibly intelligent man.
    Totally agree. Frank Zappa was one of the smartest musicians of rock history. He did not have academic achievements like the ones listed here, but he was a very intelligent man.
    Even better is that it always seemed like Zappa surrounded himself with particularly intelligent musicians. George Duke, Steve Vai, Adrian Belew, Ruth Underwood, Terry Bozzio... you know when you listen to any of Frank's music that the brain power it took to make it, from all the musicians, is overwhelming.
     And finally, two weeks, ago he got his PhD HIV at the University of Southern California and got his PhD two weeks ago. 
    Don't drink and edit, otherwise sentences like this make it through.
    We could consider Sir Christopher Lee a musician, right? "Lee spoke fluent English, Italian, French, Spanish, and German, and was moderately proficient in Swedish, Russian, and Greek." Among many, many other things.  Enough for me to call him genius.
    Well since he had a band that put out music as well as perform on some Rhapsody of Fire records, yeah I'd say hes a musician. 
    David Gilmour should be on there. He's so smart he almost started a super successful airline company by accident. LHe was so good at piloting and aviation that his company grew so fast he quit to get away from getting too rich and busy. He could've been a billionaire. Floyd turned down $300 million offers to tour.
    Surpries there's no Devin on here. Maybe not the highest IQ, but the dude has a better understanding of the way of things than anyone I've ever seen. The man IS a genius.
    Ted Nugent should be on here, he was smart enough to shit his pants before walking into the military draft office.
    Not sure why this is down voted.  Greatest thing I've seen on the internet this entire month.  Laughed my ass off.
    I think Rivers Cuomo is a Harvard Graduate... soooo hi should be on this list too
    Philip Taylor Kramer looks like Adam Sandler's fiance in The Wedding Singer.
    The sheer volume of spelling and grammar errors in this article is impressive, even by UG standards. Being an article about smart musicians, that's pretty ironical.
    Pop musicians like Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber definitely belong on this list. I mean - acting like a whore to get a lot of fans and make millions of dollars in your early 20s and then change your image to a normal one and basically redeem yourself for all the stupid shit you've done/said over the years and people start to like you. You gotta be a real genius to pull that off. Miley Cyrus is probably a decent person who in the last years just acted crazy and definitely belongs in the list for fooling everybody. Oh and - being smart =/= being intelligent =/= being well educated
    I don't know about Cyrus or Bieber but the first pop artist with a high IQ that came to my mind is Taylor Swift. Aside from being a successful songwriter and performer, she's an accomplished business woman and a very very good one.
    Bruce Dickinson seems way more "talented," then "smart," and there is a difference. Having tons of money, a great voice and a pilots license doesnt make you smart.
    It takes a lot of intelligence to be a true polymath; having so many areas of expertise requires either tons of time (which becomes increasingly more difficult the more skills you choose to learn) or the intelligence necessary to quickly master a skill. Just being a great fencer is something most people would need to spend all their time on, but Bruce was also able to do all the other things mentioned (each of which is very difficult) and do them well.
    Plus he's got an IQ of 167, and since anything over 140 is considered a genius level intellect, that alone shows Bruce belongs on the list.
    I think 167 is a bit exaggerated. Einstein had an IQ of 160, to put things in perspective. No mistakes, I love Bruce and he's clearly a very smart guy. But 167 ? Come on....
    Remember intelligence is not knowledge, but the capacity to learn. The seeming ease that Bruce acquires and masters new and complex skills supports his high IQ score. If course Einstein was a genius but his mind was very focused on physics whereas being a polymath requires many areas of excellence.
    Exactly. The actor James Woods has an IQ somewhere between 180-184. Ashton Kutcher of all people has an IQ of 160, along with Matt Damon and Conan O'Brien. We as a society seem to think that intelligence means book smarts and that things like proficiency in physics or science are the true marks of intelligence. But creating art, whether that be music or architecture or a novel, takes just as much intelligence. In fact, some people might be inclined to argue that it takes more since math and physics only require an understanding of their rules while art requires that AND the ability to use those rules to create something new.
    Have heard General Norman Schwarzkopf in the U.S. has an IQ around 180, also.  Some smart buggers there.
    Rex Inclitus
    Though not musician's, actor James Woods has a reported IQ of 184 and Dolph Lundgren over 167 you wouldn't expect that. Mine is the over 150 and you wouldn't expect that either from my  current appearance. On other hand Einstein was an idiot savant and many scientists believe he suffered from a form of autism. So the analogy is flawed. There is a 12 year girl in Essex, Lydia Sebastian,with a higher IQ than Stephen Hawking. The Mensa IQ threshold is 162, and the youngest member is 4 years old.
    Didnt Tom Morrelo graduate from Harvard? Thats got to stand for something
    Dickinson isn't the only one pilot in rock industry. Steve Morse worked in the end of 80's as a comercial airline co-pilot. Tom Morello graduated from Harvard with a bachelor of Arts degree in Social Studies. Matt Barlow (Iced Earth) after 9/11 left band and became a police officer. Roger Tailor obtained biology BSc at London Polithechnis
    Also forgot that Bill Bruford (King Crimson, Yes, UK, etc.) is another incredibly intelligent musician, having a PhD in music at the University of Surrey. 
    kudos for getting bruce dickinson's vocal range correct, but stating that his voice has never changed? i'm not certain that's entirely true
    Fronzilla from Attila. Dude is pretty smart business wise. I mean considering how low brow Attila is he apparently has quite a decent net worth.
    Dr. Mikannibal of the band "Sigh," didn't make the list. She has a Ph.D in physics. As a physics student myself I actually read one of her papers while doing research before I knew she was in a band.
    If people would understand you don't need a piece of paper to be smart/intelligent. IMO most people with degrees of whatever are not smart/intelligent. There are billions of subject that we know about... knowing one or a few of them doesn't make one smart/intelligent in my eyes. Not trying to bash anyone here! I still lift my hat off to people who knows their stuff!
    That's the difference between being intelligent and being educated. Of course it's better to be both. But it's not uncommon to see well educated people being plain stupid on many subjects. Once they're out of their world they're just completely useless. They're just good at what they've been told. An intelligent person will be able to learn many things all by himself and start from scratch all the way to success. But as I said, it's still way better to be both intelligent and educated.