Willie Nelson, Annie Lennox and Carole King received honorary music degrees from Berklee College of Music on Saturday (May 11). Lennox delivered the commencement address to the graduating class and audience of more than 4,000 attendees at the Agganis Arena.
Berklee President Roger H. Brown enlisted Kris Kristofferson to help present Nelson’s honorary doctorate. Lennox, King, Nelson and Kristofferson performed during a commencement concert during the previous evening. Kristofferson and Nelson performed a duet of Hank Williams’ “Jambalaya (On The Bayou).” Nelson also performed “Night Life,” while Lennox performed “Cold” with the student and faculty orchestra. King joined in on “The Locomotion.” Other performances included Nelson’s “On The Road Again,” and “Crazy,” King’s “(You Make Me Feel Like) a Natural Woman” and “I Feel The Earth Move,” and Lennox’s “Walking on Broken Glass” and “Why.”
During his acceptance speech, Nelson commented, “Last night was especially tremendous. I enjoyed hearing everyone play and sing so many great songs. The history of music is good, but the future is even better, thanks to you folks.”
The honorary doctorate recipients were recognized for their achievements in contemporary music, for their enduring contributions to popular culture and for the influence their careers have had on Berklee’s student body. The first honorary doctorate was given to Duke Ellington in 1971; additional recipients include Aretha Franklin, Dizzy Gillespie, Quincy Jones, Smokey Robinson, David Bowie, Bonnie Raitt, Count Basie, Sting, Loretta Lynn, B.B. King, Billy Joel, Chaka Khan, Steven Tyler, George Clinton and Patti LaBelle.
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