Top Ten Musicians With A Doctorate Degree

It’s way too easy to buy into the very prevalent stereotype that musicians – particularly rock and punks – are all brainless party animals who beat drums and play exuberant guitar solos whilst downing pints of whiskey and cavorting with groupies until 6AM. The idea is that this is all they can do, with even making a cup of coffee beyond them.

But cast that stereotype aside as we embark on a list of the Top 10 Musicians With online PhD programs that includes astrophysicists, zoologists and biochemists who play guitar at night and study germs by day. No late night vodka and gin sessions for these guys. Which means more for us, right?

№1 Brian May

Brian Cox

Brian May is the guitarist from Queen with the big, frizzy hair. You know, the only guy in the world to have had comparisons with Marge Simpsons. Legend has it that his hair used to be straight until he walked into a sauna one day and it permed itself. Legends, ey?

Although May only completed his doctorate recently (2007), he actually commenced work on it over 30 years ago. Maybe all that touring distracted him. Still, it’s not how long it took to get something that matters but the fact you got it, right?

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№2 Brian Cox

Brian Cox

Brian Cox is actually more renowned these days for his BBC TV documentaries on astrophysics and the wonders of the Universe, but before becoming a TV star, he was keyboardist for synth pop legends D:Ream.

Cox actually earned his PhD in physics from the University of Manchester, where he now lectures. Because of his TV fame, he often finds himself being photographed whilst conducting a lecture. Let’s just hope it doesn’t all go to his head.

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№3 Greg Gaffin

Greg Gaffin

Greg Gaffin co-founded punk rock band Bad Religion back in 1979. His band were eventually signed to punk label Epitaph, where their socially concerned music was given a platform, winning over audiences with their infectious rhythms and songs of injustice.

Strangely enough, Gaffin’s PhD has little to do with the biting socio-political lyricism espoused by his band. Instead, Gaffin completed his doctorate in zoology in 2003, with a dissertation called Monism, Atheism and The Naturalist Worldview: Perspectives From Evolutionary Biology. Perhaps it’ll be available at his next punk gig.

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№4 Gregg Michael Gillis

Gregg Michael Gillis

Gregg Michael Gillis – known as Girl Talk onstage – specialises in mashups and samples. A relentless and dedicated DJ who plays constantly, Gillis has so far released 5 albums and plundered various venues around the world armed with his laptop and digital samples.

Gillis was deep into studies before he began his foray into electronic music. Whilst studying for a biomedical engineering degree in the states, he decided on the idea of creating the alter ego Girl Talk. Before Girl Talk truly took off, though, Gillis focused efforts on tissue engineering. Occasionally he stops a gig to ask questions about this subject to club revellers. Okay we’re kidding.

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№5 Milo Aukerman

Milo Aukerman

Aukerman is the lead singer of popular U.S pop-punk band Descendents, a bunch of dudes who sing songs about opposing right wing ideology and demanding changes in American governmental policy. They tour extensively, and can often be found at the Warped tour during the summer.

Aside from being an angry scream shouty vocalist, Aukerman also has a PhD in biochemistry. Because of his devotion to his studies – and subsequent career in biochemistry – his band have to work their touring schedule around him. Imagine that, a punk band basing their life around science. Wonder what the Sex Pistols would say.

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№6 Tom Morello

Tom Morello

Tom Morello is most famous as the funky riff-master of political U.S heavyweights, Rage Against The Machine. He’s the guy who’s given the world some of the catchiest rhythms this side of The Beatles, and is also known for his work with rock band Audioslave.

Morello has long been known for his deep interest in politics, and has constantly called for changes to the way the world is run. So it’s little surprise that his doctorate is in political science, which he completed at Harvard of all places. A rock star in Harvard? My word. Both his bands are now defunct, with Morello currently working as a teacher.

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№7 Sterling Morrison

Sterling Morrison

Sterling Morrison was one of the founders of American rock band Velvet Underground, a blues-inspired experimental band created during the counterculture epoch. Widely known for their drug use and collaboration with pop artist Andy Warhol, the Velvet Underground have become one of the world’s most influential bands.

Morrison, despite allegations of heavy drug use aimed at his band, managed to complete a doctorate in medieval studies in 1971 whilst his band were at the height of their fame. His interest in education didn’t stop there, and he went onto earn a captain’s license.

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№8 Mira Aroyo

Mira Aroyo

Mira Aroyo works as singer, songwriter and keyboardist for popular electro-pop group Ladytron. Her band, formed back in 1999 in the UK, have so far released five albums and continue to enjoy wide appeal thanks to their bouncy, new-wave rhythms.

Bulgarian Aroyo completed a doctorate in molecular genetics at Oxford University, and is known to be multi-lingual. Another of her talents is that she can play the accordion. She also currently works as a research scientist. Yeah, but I bet I make a better cup of tea, though.

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№9 Dan Snaith

Dan Snaith

If you’ve heard of the laid-back, plaintive electro outfit Caribou, you’ll have heard of Dan Snaith. He spends his year composing music and playing huge venues, such as the UK’s Warehouse Project and Spain’s massive summer festival, Benicassim.

Snaith can also be proud to own a PhD in mathematics, which he completed at Imperial College London. Smartness runs in the family, as his dad – Mr. Snaith – is currently a maths professor at the University of Sheffield.

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№10 Brian Briggs

Brian Briggs

Brian Briggs sings for folk-pop outfit Stornoway, a band he also co-founded. A fairly new band, Stornoway have become known for their gentle tunes, which they describe as ‘remote and coastal.’

But there is more than meets the eye to our Briggs. He also has a doctorate in zoology, which he gained from the University of Oxford. His dissertation was centred around duck behaviour. Rumour has it that he used to compose songs whilst sitting by the pond, watching the ducks. Perhaps his singing influenced their behaviour? Who knows.

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