Just because a famous musician can sell out stadiums or write numerous hit songs doesn’t mean that they’re any less nerdy or geeky than the average person. In fact, there are a few guitar-wielding rock gods who embrace and indulge in their inner nerd whilst masquerading around in a rock band.
Here are a few musicians who are so well-educated and geeky that they’re probably more at home playing Dungeons & Dragons in a library than rocking out on a music stage.
Guitarist for Rage Against the Machine
Studied Political Science At Harvard
Before Tom Morello became the badass lead guitarist for Rage Against The Machine, he originally had plans that were completely unrelated to music.
After graduating high school with honours, Morello enrolled at Harvard University as a political science student before graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Science. After a brief stint as a male stripper under the alias of ‘Meat Swinger’, Morello put his degree to good use and worked in the office of California Democratic Senator Alan Cranston. But that brief foray into politics turned out to be a bad enough experience that Morello thought music was the safer career path.
It turned out for the best as Morello would probably prefer to be remembered as the guy who wrote stuff like ‘Killing In The Name’ than as future Democratic Senator Tom ‘Meat Swinger’ Morello.
Frontman of Bad Religion
Uni Lecturer at UCLA and Cornell With A PhD
As the lead singer and only ‘constant member’ of Bad Religion, Greg Graffin is best known for his socially and politically charged lyrics, and for being one of the figureheads of modern punk rock. What is less known about Graffin is that Bad Religion is nothing more to a side-gig for him.
By night, audiences are enamoured by Graffin’s punk rocker persona. By day however, he is a lecturer at UCLA and Cornell University. Proving that it is somehow possible to be both a symbol for anarchy and a respected figure in academia, Graffin treated music as a sort of hobby whilst he double majored in anthropology and geology at UCLA before getting a PhD in zoology at Cornell.
So if you’re ever tired of listening to ’21st Century (Digital Boy)’ or ‘Stranger Than Fiction’, maybe you should check out Graffin’s other work such as ‘Anarchy Evolution: Faith, Science, and Bad Religion in a World Without God’ or ‘Is Belief in God Good, Bad, or Irrelevant?’.
For a real headspin watch this…
Lead Singer of CHVRCHES
Has a Degree in Law, Masters in Journalism and Worked as a Journalist
If age is any measure, then prepare to be overwhelmed by CHVRCHES’ lead singer Lauren Mayberry. At only 28, she’s already completed two degrees in law and journalism, worked as a freelance journalist and learnt drums and piano.
Between her two albums with CHVRCHES and numerous EPs with previous bands, she still finds time to write for publications such as The Guardian, and speak out against the blatant sexism she faces in the music industry.
Frontman of The Offspring
Has A Master’s Degree In Molecular Biology
Seeing as how he and his band, The Offspring, were on the forefront of the early 90’s punk rock revival, you’d think that Dexter Holland is the kind of guy who would go around setting fires to cars whilst giving the finger to authority.
Well, not quite.
Dexter probably has more in common with Albert Einstein than Sid Vicious. Having graduated as class valedictorian, he went on to study molecular biology at the University of Southern California. That’s right, the guy who wrote ‘Pretty Fly (For A White Guy)’ has a Master’s Degree in Molecular Biology and wrote something titled ‘Identification of Human MicroRNA-Like Sequences Embedded within the Protein-Encoding Genes of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus’.
Just in case you thought a Master’s Degree in Molecular Biology wasn’t enough, Dexter also has his own chain of hot sauce and is a certified airline pilot who flew around the world solo in ten days.
Guitarist for Queen
Has A PhD In Astrophysics
Freddie Mercury may have been the voice for Queen but Brian May was the musical backbone of the band. Yet as it turns out, writing stadium rock anthems and being one of the best guitarists ever is just something he did on the side.
In the early 1970’s, May studied mathematics and physics at Imperial College London and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree with honours. But just as he was going for his doctorate in astrophysics, May was faced with a choice: keep going with his PhD or become the lead guitarist of one of the greatest rock bands in history. Well, seeing how history turned out, you can probably guess which option May picked.
May never lost his love for the stars and between rocking out Wembley Stadium and writing stuff like ‘The Show Must Go On’ and ‘We Will Rock You’, he kept fiddling around with astrophysics and eventually got that PhD in 2007 – nearly 40 years after he first started.
Frontman of Descendants
Has A PhD In Biochemistry And Is A Research Biochemist
Despite fronting an influential pop punk band, you probably wouldn’t be surprised to hear that Milo Aukerman from the Descendents is a big nerd. Not only is Aukerman incredibly smart and highly educated, he fully embraces his nerdiness by rocking a mammoth pair of glasses, a geeky hair-cut, an unhealthy affinity for dad jokes, and focusing his lyrics primarily on girls, caffeine, and food.
After attending high school with his Descendents band mates, he studied biology at University of California before getting a PhD in Biochemistry from the University of Wisconsin. These days, Aukerman spends more time working as researcher while being in a band is something he does in his vacation time.
In fact, the band’s numerous hiatuses over the last few decades can be attributed to Aukerman’s decision to focus on stuff like ‘Analysis of opaque-2 Function in Maize’ instead of rocking it as the frontman for one of the pioneers of modern punk.
Guitarist for The Velvet Underground
Has a PhD in Medieval Studies
As if being the lead guitarist for The Velvet Underground wasn’t enough, the late Sterling Morrison also has the brains to back up his rock star credentials.
Before becoming one of the forefathers of punk rock, Morrison was studying English at Syracuse University. After meeting and jamming with Lou Reed, Morrison decided that The Velvet Underground was more interesting than studying so he dropped out to pursue music. But his love for studying didn’t waver and when the band was touring around New York City, Morrison decided to use his spare time to get a Bachelor’s Degree in English at City College.
When the band broke up in 1971, Morrison put his guitar aside and hang around Texas for a while. In between becoming an expert at tugboats and playing with local bands for fun, Morrison also began studying at the University of Texas and eventually graduated in 1986 with a PhD in Medieval Studies.
I may never win a Grammy, solving the piracy issue is way out of my skillset, and I'll probably die of joy if left alone in a room with The Strokes. All I can do properly is write words about music stuff, and hope that people will read it. If you want to debate why 'Is This It' is the best album ever, or you're just bored one day, hit me up on Twitter @alexandervpanView all posts by Alexander Pan
Artists in this post
Chvrches (pronounced as “churches”) are a Scottish synthpop band from Glasgow, formed in 2011. The group consists of Lauren Mayberry (lead vocals, additional synthesizers and samplers), Iain Cook (synthesizers, guitar, bass, vocals), and Martin Doherty (synthesizers, samplers, vocals). Chvrches came fifth on the BBC’s Sound of 2013 list of the most promising new music talent.
The DESCENDENTS, driven by “rejection, coffee, girls, fishing, and food”, emerged from the South Bay area of Los Angeles in late 1978 during the early days of the Southern California punk scene. They were influenced by everything from the Beach Boys, to fledgling punk bands like the Ramones and Black Flag. Originally a three piece,
Queen are a British rock band formed in London in 1970, originally consisting of Freddie Mercury (lead vocals, piano), Brian May (guitar, vocals), John Deacon (bass guitar), and Roger Taylor (drums, vocals). Queen's earliest works were influenced by progressive rock, hard rock and heavy metal, but the band gradually ventured into more conventional and radio-friendly