8 Great Musical Groups That Met as Undergrads

These musical groundbreakers and prolific artists began their artistic journeys on campuses of these colleges and universities.

College is known to be a place where folks get a chance to let their creative, independent side shine, so it only makes sense that some great bands and artists caught their musical stride as undergrads.

For the summer months, when you probably have a little more time to spin some records (or, more likely, stream them), we've rounded up eight groups that used school as a springboard for musical success.

1. The Commodores - Tuskegee College

The Commodores

The Commodores, a group synonymous with funk and soul, were born at the Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee College) in Alabama during the late '60s. Lead man Lionel Richie, who attended on a tennis scholarship and majored in economics, got his start with the Commodores when he and five friends put together a band to perform at a talent night.

After the group graduated, they signed with world-famous Motown records and started to catch heat while opening for another popular all-male soul group of the time: The Jackson 5.

2. Das Racist - Wesleyan University

Das Racist

Now-defunct New York-based rap trio Das Racist may be best known for being completely unconventional, using everything from netspeak ("hahahaha jk") to the glory of fast food restaurants ("Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell") as inspiration for their brand of half-jokey hip hop.

The group formed after MCs Victor Vazquez (Kool A.D.) and Himanshu Suri (Heems) met at Connecticut's Wesleyan University in 2003, which was notably around the same time psych-rock duo MGMT met while attending the same school.

3. The Pixies - University of Massachusetts Amherst

The Pixies

Hugely influential alternative rock group The Pixies famously got their start while next-dorm neighbors frontman Black Francis and guitarist Joey Santiago were studying at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Although they dropped out to pursue their music career soon after, they pay homage to their meeting place in the tune "U-mass" off their 1991 album “Trompe Le Monde.”

4. Public Enemy - Adelphi University

Public Enemy

Forward-thinking hip hop powerhouse group Public Enemy had huge success in the late 80s and early 90s with their albums “It Takes A Nation of Millions to Hold us Back” and “Fear of a Black Planet.”

The group started to come together when then-graphic design student Chuck D met future hype man and multi-instrumentalist Flavor Flav at Long Island's Adelphi University. Chuck D, who used the college's radio station as a jump-off point for his career, graduated in 1984, and went to receive an honorary doctorate while giving the school's commencement speech last year.

5. REM - University of Georgia

REM

Another pioneering modern rock band, REM, had its foundations at the University of Georgia in the early '80s, where all four members bonded over underground music heroes like Television and The Velvet Underground. After gaining hold in the booming Athens, Georgia music scene, the members dropped out to focus on the group, and shortly thereafter released their landmark debut album “Murmur.”

The band would go on to gain a following largely through college radio airplay before they hit the mainstream. It's unclear whether frontman Michael Stipe learned his sweet dance moves during his college days or shortly after.

6. Steely Dan - Bard College

Steely Dan

Before they were your dad's favorite band, Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Steely Dan were just college kids trying to get a proper rock group together while attending Bard, a small liberal arts school in New York's Hudson Valley. The core members of the group, Donald Fagen and Walter Becker, met in a small cafe near campus, and spent the rest of their school days bonding over jazz, writing songs, and playing in local groups on campus before heading to New York following graduation to pursue their music dreams.

7. Talking Heads - Rhode Island School of Design

Talking Heads

Genre-spanning 70s and 80s alternative rock group Talking Heads cut against the disheveled punk grain of their era with their comparatively clean-cut look. They were also unlike most of their contemporaries in that three of the group's members, including frontman David Byrne, attended college together at the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design before moving to New York and taking off as Talking Heads. Their fourth member, bassist Jerry Harrison, was hardly an academic slouch himself, having graduated from Harvard with a degree in architecture.

8. Vampire Weekend - Columbia University

Vampire Weekend

It only takes one or two listens of the band's breakout self-titled album to conclude that Vampire Weekend is maybe the most collegiate of all college bands. With titles that reference debates so benign they could only take place in academia ("Oxford Comma") and songs that directly summon college experience ("Campus"), their debut plays like sketches of their formative time spent studying at Columbia and performing in New York City. All four members of the polished indie rock group met at the school.

Sources:

"Chuck D of Public Enemy to receive Honorary Degree and Speak at Adelphi Commencement." Adelphi University, n.d. Web. 17 June 2014. Retrieved from Adelphi University.

Solomon, Interview. "Straight Outta Wesleyan." The New York Times. The New York Times, 4 Dec. 2010. Web. 23 June 2014. Retrieved from The New York Times.

"The Commodores of Tuskegee Sail on a Golden Sea of Hits." : People.com. N.p., 20 Feb. 1978. Web. 23 June 2014. Retrieved from People.

Brunner, Rob. "Back to Annadale | EW.com." EW.com. Entertainment Weekly, 17 Mar. 2006. Web. 23 June 2014. Retrieved from Entertainment Weekly.

Verini, James. "The Meaning of the Talking Heads Song." The New Yorker. New Yorker, 14 June 2012. Web. 23 June 2014. Retrieved from the New Yorker.

Kaufman, Gil. "Alternative Radio Tunes In And Turns On To U2, R.E.M." News. MTV, 2 Oct. 1998. Web. 23 June 2014. Retrieved from MTV.

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