Many of us will be lucky enough to master one skill in our career lifetime, but then there are those who seem to have hit the genetic jackpot of both talent and smarts that put them in a category of their own. Certain artists have not only excelled as incredible musicians, but also manifest an aptitude of knowledge that is second to none.
From doctors of astronomy to masters of math, here’s a look at five of music’s smartest rock stars.
Prior to becoming one of music’s most esteemed and talented guitarists with Queen, May was an astronomy student working towards his PhD. When Queen’s popularity took off, May set aside his studies to focus on music, but 30 years later returned to his passion of astronomy and finished his doctoral thesis on Motions of Interplanetary Dust, according to bio. In 2007, May obtained his full PhD degree from Imperial College, London, co-authored the book Bang! The Complete History of the Universe and its sequel The Cosmic Tourist. He’s also accomplished in 3D photography, a dedicated activist in animal welfare and was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2005.
And if you’ve ever seen May live in concert, you know that he likes to include many astrological references and mini-lessons during his performance. This guy is the real deal.
As one of the founding members of Boston, Tom is not only a masterful musician and songwriter, but quite the dexterous engineer and inventor. He studied for five years at Cambridge at Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he earned his Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering, according to his bio. He worked at Polaroid Corporation as a senior product design engineer, but having been classically trained on piano as a child, Tom was always passionate about music and began teaching himself to play guitar, bass and organ. That’s when he formed Boston and ultimately earned a record deal after years of recording and sending out demos.
His accomplishments include inventing his own line of guitar amplifiers called Rockman, founding his own charity the DTS Charitable Foundation, and was honored with the Mahatma Ghandi Award in 1987 and named Man of the Year by the National Hospice Organization in 1988.
Art Garfunkel & Paul Simon
Not only does this legendary folk duo make beautiful music together, each are also brilliant in their own right, so it’s only fair to feature both. The two began singing and writing together at age 11 in their neighborhood of Queens, New York, performing together in school plays and talent shows. As teens, they wrote and recorded the song “Hey, Schoolgirl” under the name Tom & Jerry given by their first record label Big Records.
After high school, the two split to pursue a higher education. Garfunkel achieved his Bachelor of Arts degree at Columbia College, majoring in Art History. He later earned his Masters degree in Mathematics at Columbia University. Simon earned an English degree at Queens College and briefly attended Brooklyn Law School, but his passion for music was no match for the law. The two later rejoined in 1962 to record as a duo and the rest is history.
Before forming the Eurythmics with partner Dave Stewart, Lennox moved from her native Scotland to London after earning a place at the prestigious Royal Academy of Music in the early ’70s, according to her bio. While there, she studio flute, piano, and harpsicord for three years before having a chance encounter with Stewart. The two bonded and started writing and recording together under the name The Tourists before forming the Eurythmics. During her accomplished career, Lennox has earned four GRAMMY awards, and Academy Award, numerous humanitarian honors for her work raising awareness for HIV and AIDS, and appointed the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II.
We all know about the ‘power of love,’ but many may not know about Huey Lewis’ unparallelled brain power in mathematics. The singer had smarts from an early age, having skipped second grade, and attended the Lawrenceville School in New Jersey at age 13 where he began playing harmonica, according to his bio. He scored a perfect 800 on the math portion of the SAT and was later accepted to Cornell University, where he studied engineering for a year and a half before dropping out to pursue music. He may just be the smartest college dropout yet.
Know of any other smart rock stars? Add them to the list in the comments below!