As students up and down the country prepare to collect their hard earned degrees – here are 25 massive artists who’ve been awarded honorary certificates…
In 2014, PJ Harvey received an honorary degree from London’s Goldsmiths University for her contributions to culture. An accolade that surely no one can dispute.
Bob Dylan? That’s Dr Bob Dylan to you. In 1970, Princeton gave Zimmerman a doctorate for his contributions to the arts. It almost ended in disaster, however, as the songwriter refused to wear the college gown on the day, which irked Princeton officials into threatening to withdraw the offer. It all worked out in the end, as did his 2004 bow at the University of St Andrews, pictured.
‘Music has so much power across so many avenues,’ Jimmy Page told students at Boston’s Berklee College of Music as he received an honorary doctorate in May this year. The Led Zeppelin guitar legend’s speech was apparently pretty succinct – he didn’t ‘Ramble On’ in the slightest.
New York’s Pratt Institute made Patti Smith an honorary alumna in 2010. The punk poet delivered a touching speech to students as she picked up her degree, alongside ‘Che’ and ‘Traffic’ director Steven Soderbergh. Watch it here if you’re that way inclined.
Here’s Bob Geldof looking cheery after being made an honorary Master of Arts. In addition to a similar award from UEA in 2004, 2010 saw his humanitarian worked recognised by Canterbury’s University for the Creative Arts. “I live up the road, so to be recognised by a local university, in the region that I love, adds even greater significance for me,” he told students. Party back at yours then, Bob?
Michael Jackson was awarded an honorary doctorate degree of Humane Letters by Fisk University in New York in March 1988. Could look a bit more thrilled about it, MJ.
“Just think, I’m Dr. Dolly!” everyone’s favourite country songstress exclaimed as she picked up an honorary doctorate from the University of Tennessee in 2009. “So when people say something about ‘Double-D,’ they will be thinking of something entirely different.” Dolly Parton, we love you.
In 1999, David Bowie became an honorary doctor, thanks to Berklee. The night before the event, he’d turned up to watch students play songs from across his career in a university hall. Delivering his acceptance speech, he reminisced about working with John Lennon, describing their relationship as like “Beavis and Butthead.”
In May this year, Puff Daddy described himself as a “magical creature” and “a unicorn” after picking up an honorary doctorate from the school he dropped out of to pursue music years earlier, Washington’s Howard University. Magical creature, unicorn, and now doctor – P Diddy did good.
I know what you’re thinking: Kylie, a doctor? She should be so lucky. But Australian pop star Minogue collected an honorary doctorate of Health Sciences from Anglia Ruskin University at a ceremony in Chelmsford in 2011, for her work promoting breast cancer awareness.
Alright, so he’s not a musician, but we just had to include Michael Eavis in this list, picking up an honorary degree from the University of Buckinghamshire for his services to the arts. If only to prove the Glastonbury organiser does, sometimes, wear clothes other than denim shorts and wellies.
Nat King Cole looked pleased to became an honorary degree of doctor of fine arts, courtesy of Morgan State College in 1963.
Steven Tyler’s a doctor too. The Aerosmith man never had any formal education after high school but was awarded Berklee College of Music’s honorary doctorate in 2003. Too right, we say, what with his canon of scholarly essays on the merits of sex in lifts (‘Love In An Elevator’) and dudes who look like ladies.
“The history of music has been good, but the future is even better thanks to you folks,” Willie Nelson told students at Berklee College of Music as he picked up an honorary degree in 2011. Right on, Willie.
Here’s Whitney Houston looking happy to be picking up an honorary degree from Grambling State University in 1988.
Yoko Ono has more honorary degrees than you’ve had hot dinners: among her honours are a Doctorate of Laws from Liverpool University, a Doctorate of Fine Arts from Bard College and Skowhegan Medal for work in assorted media. Good on ya, Yoko.
John Peel brushed off suggestions his honorary degree in music from the University of Liverpool, awarded in 2000, would affect his street cred: “I don’t think my Radio 1 listeners would think I am any less cool for being made a Doctor of Music. They think I’m a fat, late-middle-aged man.”
U2 frontman Bono received an honorary degree from Japan’s Keio University in May 2008 for his contribution to music and humanitarian causes. The singer gave a 40 minute lecture at his acceptance, before dishing out free iPods with every U2 album pre-loaded and a picture of his face engraved on the back to students. Probably.
Frank Sinatra was awarded an honorary degree by Stevens Institute of Technology in New York in 1985 – but students weren’t happy. 102 students signed a petition claiming the move was a publicity stunt, arguing: “Frank Sinatra is recognized in the area of entertainment – not engineering, science or education. His childhood residence in Hoboken is a poor excuse for bestowing this honor.”
R-E-S-P-E-C-T, that’s all Aretha Franklin wants. Luckily, Harvard were on hand to give it to her earlier this year, awarding her an honorary doctorate at a ceremony that saw the soul icon sing ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ in front of George W. Bush and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Elton John dropped out of the Royal Academy Of Music before his final exams, but was welcomed back in 2002 to pick up their honorary academic award. “I wasn’t a very good student,” he confessed before the official ceremony. “When I didn’t practice, I used to go round on the Circle Line and then go home.”
Barbra Streisand received an honorary doctorate of philosophy degree from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem in 2013. Nice one, Babs.
People tend to associate Annie Lennox with Eurythmics rather than arithmetics, but the singer’s academic credentials now cannot be doubted – not since the University of Essex awarded her an honorary doctorate last year.
Another recipitent of Berklee College of Music’s honorary doctorate is the mighty Carole King, who visited Boston to collect her award in 2013.
Finally, here’s folk hero Pete Seegar at the Manhattan School of Music, where he officially became Dr. Pete Seegar in a ceremony in 2008.