Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave guitarist Tom Morello is known for being politically outspoken, so his degree in social studies may not come as a surprise. Initially planning to pursue political science at Harvard, he broadened his studies and ultimately earned a social studies B.A. from the renowned university. Morello was also in a rock group called Joey Thunder & The Electrical Storm during his time as a student there.
When he’s not rocking out on his guitar, Brian May could be exploring outer space. After finishing his undergraduate physics degree at Imperial College London, the illustrious Queen guitarist remained at the school to begin his doctoral studies in astrophysics, but just when he was nearing completion on his thesis, he paused his education to focus on music. Three decades later, May resumed work on his thesis about interplanetary dust at Imperial College and was finally awarded his PhD.
You can find May’s thesis, titled “A Survey of Radial Velocities in the Zodiacal Dust Cloud,” here.
After graduating high school as valedictorian, The Offspring frontman Dexter Holland entered the University of Southern California with a scholarship offer. He was awarded a Bachelor of Science in biology and a master’s degree in molecular biology before beginning his PhD, but he would pause his research to focus on the band. Twenty years later, Holland resumed his thesis on HIV (called “Discovery of Mature MicroRNA Sequences Within the Protein-Coding Regions of Global HIV-1 Genomes: Predictions of Novel Mechanisms for Viral Infection and Pathogenicity”), obtaining a molecular biology doctorate in 2017.
John Legend was just 16 years old when he started studying at the University of Pennsylvania, after declining offers from Georgetown, Morehouse, and Harvard. The EGOT winner pursued a Bachelor of Arts in English, concentrating in African-American literature, and earned a magna cum laude distinction upon graduating in 1999.
Not only is University College London one of the best universities in the world, it’s also where alternative pop outfit Coldplay was born. Pianist/vocalist Chris Martin, bassist Guy Berryman, guitarist Jonny Buckland, and drummer Will Champion first crossed paths at Ramsay Hall, a dormitory at UCL, in 1996, and the quartet wrote a large number of their first songs in the school’s residential buildings. Although Berryman only remained at the university for a year, the other three went on to attain degrees; Martin concentrated in Greek and Latin, Champion focused on anthropology, and Buckland studied mathematics and astronomy.
After receiving a tennis scholarship, Lionel Richie began his studies at Tuskegee Institute, whose grounds he lived and grew up on, in 1967, originally planning to enter the Episcopal priesthood. He later switched gears, majoring in economics and minoring in accounting; his Bachelor of Science degree proved to be exceptionally valuable, helping him navigate various business ventures throughout his music career.
With over thirty patented inventions, including the Rockman – a portable headphone guitar amp, Tom Scholz is as much an engineer as he is a rocking musician, thanks at least in part to his MIT education. The driving force of American rock outfit Boston, Scholz studied mechanical engineering at MIT for five years, earning both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in the subject.
Singer and actor Art Garfunkel, one half of Simon & Garfunkel and a distinguished solo artist, began reading architecture at Columbia in 1960 but discontinued his studies the following year. He later returned to the university and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in art history in 1965 before attaining a master’s in mathematics education two years later. Garfunkel then started to pursue a math doctorate but never completed it.