8+ Scientifically-Minded Musicians

Modern musicians are frequently believed to be stupid airheads who couldn't hold down any "real" job. But in reality, there are a lot of intelligent rock stars. Some musicians are even geniuses - and not just when it comes to music composition. These musicians are not only intelligent, they have also used their knowledge to get college degrees or in their secondary professions.

Brian May: Queen

Brian May of Queen isn’t your average rock and roll supernova. He was named the 39th Greatest Guitarist of All Time by Rolling Stone, but he’s also great at something else – astrophysics. May graduated from the Imperial College of London with an honors degree in physics and Mathematics. He then went on to obtain a doctorate in both departments, when Queen exploded into rock and roll stardom. While he gave up his schooling for the band, he did not stop working with physics and published a few academic papers while in the group. More recently, he printed a book entitled Bang! – The Complete History of the Universe in 2006. In October of 2007, he completed his Ph.D. in astrophysics. His thesis was titled A Survey of Radial Velocities in the Zodiacal Dust Cloud. The month after, he was appointed Chancellor of Liverpool John Moores University. Source

Greg Graffin: Bad Religion

Greg Graffin was an anthropology and geology double-major from UCLA. He went on to obtain a master’s degree in geology from the school and then earned a Ph.D. in zoology from Cornell University. Throughout this entire time, he was singing and touring with Bad Religion, a band he helped form when he was only 15. Although he’s still playing with Bad Religion, Graffin also teaches Life Sciences at UCLA. He has also written two books, one a series of correspondences between himself and historian Preston Jones titled Is Belief in God Good, Bad or Irrelevant? A Professor and Punk Rocker Discuss Science, Religion, Naturalism & Christianity, the other is being released in 2010 and is titled Anarchy Evolution. According to a recent Twitter post, he is also be involved with an upcoming television series, called “Punk Professor.” Source Image Via The Toad [Flickr]

Milo Aukerman: Descendents

Anyone familiar with the punk band The Descendents knows of the nerdy caricature that has come to serve as the band’s logo. That drawing is based on the band’s lead singer, Milo Aukerman. Fans may also recognize the name of the group’s first album, 'Milo Goes to College.' The album was named because Milo was actually going to college at UCSD at the time. His affection for learning caused the band to go on a number of temporary hiatuses while he returned to school. Eventually, Aukerman earned a Ph.D in biochemistry from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Even after graduation, the band continued the cycle of reuniting and separating as Milo kept returning to the band and then his career in biochemistry. The group is currently dormant, but with their history, most fans still hold out hope that Milo will come back soon. Sources #1, #2

Tom Scholz: Boston

Tom Scholz is the founder and guitarist for a little band called Boston. But before he ever even started the group, he received a master’s degree at MIT in the field of mechanical engineering. He was working as a senior product design engineer for Polaroid when he decided to try his hand at rock. After Boston took off, Tom created his own music technology company, Scholz Research & Development in 1980. In 1995, he sold the company to Dunlop Manufacturing, who continued to produce the company’s most famous product, the Rockman guitar amp. The amp was designed by Sholz himself and still is manufactured with his signature on each unit. Source

Dexter Holland & James Lilja: The Offspring

The lead singer and co-founder of the Offspring, Dexter Holland graduated as valedictorian of his high school before he moved on to college. He then moved on to USC where he obtained a Bachelor’s degree in biology and Master’s degree in molecular biology. When the Offspring took off, he actually left his doctoral program in Molecular Biology at USC in order to focus on the band. Unrelated, but also interesting, Holland is also a licensed pilot and hot sauce entrepreneur. His hot sauce, Gringo Bandito, has even been picked up by Albertsons. Dexter isn’t the only smart guy who’s played in the band though. James Lilja played drums with the band for a few years before returning to his medical calling – in gynecology. If you thought it was strange to have a punk rock professor in LA, just imagine visiting a rock star gynecologist in San Jose. Sources #1, #2, Image of Dexter Via Jack Shepler, Rock Music Review [Flickr]

Philip Taylor Kramer: Iron Butterfly

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. His disappearance in 1995 sent conspiracy theorists aflutter and remained a complete mystery for four years. It started when he drove to the LA airport to pick up an investor who never showed up. Kramer then made a number of phone calls from his cell phone, including one to the police where he said, "I’m going to kill myself. And I want everyone to know O.J. Simpson is innocent. They did it." He was never heard from after this and the mystery ended up appearing on Oprah, America’s Most Wanted, Unsolved Mysteries and a Skeptic magazine article depicted the number of conspiracy theories surrounding his disappearance. His body was finally uncovered in 1999, when photographers looking to shoot old car wrecks at the bottom of Decker Canyon in Malibu discovered his minivan with his remains inside. The death was officially ruled a suicide based on his phone calls made that day, but conspiracy theories still rage on. Source

Jeff “Skunk” Baxter: Steely Dan and The Doobie Brothers

The guitarist for such classic bands as Steely Dan and The Doobie Brothers is also a self-taught expert on weaponry systems. After a lengthy studying period at home, Jeff “Skunk” Baxter decided to demonstrate his knowledge on the subject by writing a five-page paper that proposed the ship-based anti-aircraft Aegis missile be converted into a missile defense system. After he gave the paper to California congressman Dana Rohrabacher, Baxter’s career as a defense consultant began. In 1995, he was elected chairman of the Civilian Advisory Board for Ballistic Missile Defense, a position he still holds. Through work with that project, he was awarded consulting contracts with the Missile Defense Agency, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, U.S. Department of Defense, Science Applications International Corporation, Northrop Grumman Corp. and General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. He has also joined the NASA Exploration Systems Advisory Committee. 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. Source Image Via NASA (yes, that NASA)

A few other educated musicians of note:

-Lionel Richie has a degree in economics from Tuskegee. -Art Garfunkel has a Masters from Columbia in both history and math. -Tracy Chapman has degrees in anthropology and African studies from Tufts University, where she was also awarded an honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts. -Tom Morello of Rage Against The Machine and Audioslave has a degree in social studies from Harvard. After leaving the music world, he settled down and began teaching history. Source #1, #2

Newest 5
Newest 5 Comments

Maybe an honorable mention to Tool? No advanced degrees I know of but they do have the song "Lateralus". The time signature revolves through three bars of 9/8, 8/8 and 7/8. 987 being a number in the Fibonacci sequuence. The lyrics of the song talk about the spiral as a metaphor for understanding and creativity too.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Michael White of the pop group Thomson Twins is an accomplished science writer:

"Leonardo - The First Scientist"
"Stephen Hawking - A Life in Science"
"Isaac newton: The Last Sorcerer"
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Login to comment.

Email This Post to a Friend
"8+ Scientifically-Minded Musicians"

Separate multiple emails with a comma. Limit 5.


Success! Your email has been sent!

close window

This website uses cookies.

This website uses cookies to improve user experience. By using this website you consent to all cookies in accordance with our Privacy Policy.

I agree
Learn More