The Educated Musician
Final exams have barely wrapped. That was rough, right? Even a couple years removed, I still accurately remember the endless weariness, the desperate futility, and the all nighters that concluded not when you finally nailed down the material, but when you had given up and made peace with whatever grade would come your way. Sometimes it's hard to remember that so many have gone through the trials and tribulations of higher education. I mean, yeah, a lot of people have an education in their background, but even people you don't expect. Case in point: legendary punk rockers. Greg Graffin of veteran punk rock band Bad Religion is a man of learning. A double major in geology and anthropology, he went on to get a Master's degree at UCLA and then a PhD at Cornell University. He can reasonably be called Dr. Graffin, PhD of zoology and lead singer of Bad Religion. But what's most stunning about this is that the doctorate came in 2003 - well after he had found fame and notoriety through his music. Today, he can be found part of the time giving lectures in life sciences. In between world tours and recording sessions, Graffin made time to pursue formal knowledge, and that's as punk as anything else. But it's Bad Religion – you might expect a band as wordy and political as them to be a bit nerdy, right? The real delight is when you make a judgment on an artist based on their work, only to find out that you are wrong (probably.) I give you: Ke$ha. The be-dollared alias of Kesha Sebert apparently has a near-perfect SAT score, indicating a potential for gargantuan intelligence, or at least, test taking skills. It throws her music into a new context – perhaps the insistence on including a dollar sign in her name is a subtle critique of exploitative consumerism! Or maybe it just looks cool. Even the studious just want to do cool things. Of all the tags you could attach to musicians, one of the least expected has to be “astrophysicist.” But that's precisely what Brian May of Queen is, and that's mountains more difficult than your garden variety degrees. Were it not for Queen's rocket to superstardom, the man would have had his PhD much earlier. How strange it must be to be thinking of the velocity of interplanetary dust, and then shifting your mindspace to eclectic, operatic rock & roll epics. It's always fun to see people with a wealth of intellectual cred pursue something outside of their field. It's also fun to find out what the musicians of our time did before getting traction in song making. When those two sensations are combined, it gives depth to the people behind the mic, and reminds us that even with an education, you still have the capacity to make some wild turns.
The String Quartet Tribute to Bad Religion: History Repeating
Available at iTunes and Amazon
String Quartet Tribute to Queen Available at iTunes and Amazon