Top 10 Academics in Rock

[Yet another list from our compulsive list-maker, Brent Chittenden. Who says all rock stars spend their time destroying brain cells? – AC]

There’s lot of different kinds of smart. Street smart, super smart, trivia smart and book smart. Now all of these smart people can be smart in more than one type of smarts but not necessarily. So today I wanted to look at the top ten academics of rock.

The Book Smart rockers who not only went to school but were actually quite good at it. (please note, these are in no particular order as they are all smarter than I am and I would have no idea on who to rank the smartest)

Read on.  You might be surprised.

10) Tom Scholz

This guitarist has a masters in mechanical engineering (from MIT) which paved the way for his Rockman amps as well as working for Polaroid. Smarts might run in the family as his son is an MIT grad as well.


9) Mira Aroyo

Vocalist and keyboardist in Ladytron, Mira has a PhD in molecular genetics and was doing post grad work there as well.


8) Caribou

Dan Snaith aka Caribou has a PhD in mathematics from the Imperial College London.


7) Brian May

Brian May. World renowned guitarist. Member of Queen. Rock God. Astrophysicist. Like most rockers, May went to school but unlike a majority of his fellow British musicians, it wasn’t art college and unlike most of of those who droped out when the rock gig became a viable concern, May returned to his degree 30 years later, eventually earning his PHD in Astrophysics.


6) Rivers Cuomo

Weezer’s main man is a Havard grad with a bachelor’s in English and graduated with honors.


5) Greg Graffin

The front man for punk hall of famers, Bad Religion, Greg Graffin double majored in anthropology and geology, got his masters in geology, his PHD in zoology and teaches at UCLA.


4) Dexter Holland

Founding member of The Offspring, lead singer Dexter Holland has his bachelor’s in biology and his master’s in molecular biology. He had planned to get his PhD in molecular biology but The Offspring were doing pretty good.


3) Robert Leonard

Sha Na Na started a revival in the US of the 50’s that gave us things like Grease, Robert Leonard was a founding member who later went on to earn his PhD in linguistics at Columbia. He currently teaches Hofstra University.


2) Milo Aukerman

The Descendants’ Milo really did go to college. He earned a doctorate in biochemistry. When he’s not performing, he holds down a day job as a researcher for DuPont.


1) Brian Cox

Brian Cox is a widely known particle physicist (he’s worked on the Hadron Collider) as well as taught at University of Manchester and presented a ton of BBC science programs. But I bet he’s the only scientist at the Collider who’s been on Top of the Pops. Brian used to play keyboards in D:Ream.

Special thanks goes out to my lifelong friend, Gavin Whitehead for suggesting this list idea. But who did I miss? Is there an academic rock star that should have been placed here? Let us know and maybe we can revisit the topic again.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

2 thoughts on “Top 10 Academics in Rock

  • December 8, 2012 at 4:59 am

    John-Benoit Dunckel from Air studied math and physics; not sure if it's rock, but pretty influential stuff.

  • December 10, 2012 at 8:45 pm

    Lamb of God guitarist Mark Morton reportedly has a master's… no clue in what.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.