Robinson, Ronstadt, Guerra, Massenburg to Be Honored

Mitzi Dorbu
April 13, 2009
Smokey Robinson
Linda Ronstadt
Juan Luis Guerra
George Massenburg
Photo provided by the artist
Photo provided by the artist
Photo provided by the artist
Photo provided by the artist

Berklee College of Music president Roger H. Brown will present Smokey Robinson, Linda Ronstadt, Berklee alumnus Juan Luis Guerra, and producer/sound engineer George Massenburg with honorary doctor of music degrees at Berklee's commencement on Saturday, May 9, 10:00 a.m., at the Agganis Arena at Boston University. Commencement speaker Smokey Robinson will address more than 850 Berklee graduates and invited guests at the 7,000-seat venue. 

This year's honorary doctorate recipients are being recognized for their achievements and influence in music, and for their enduring contributions to American and international culture. Past recipients include Duke Ellington (the first, in 1971), Dizzy Gillespie, Patti LaBelle, Steven Tyler, Aretha Franklin, Tito Puente, Nancy Wilson, David Bowie, the Edge, Gloria and Emilio Estefan, Michel Camilo, Chaka Khan, Loretta Lynn, Quincy Jones, Bonnie Raitt, and Ahmet Ertegun.

On commencement eve, as is Berklee's tradition, students will pay tribute to the honorees by performing music associated with Robinson, Ronstadt, Guerra, and Massenburg at the Agganis Arena.  The commencement concert and ceremony are not open to the public. 

Smokey Robinson, proclaimed America's "greatest living poet" by Bob Dylan, is a Grammy-winning singer/songwriter whose career spans four decades of chart-topping hits. Robinson founded the Miracles, Berry Gordy's first vocal group, and it was at his suggestion that Gordy started Motown records. Robinson wrote "Shop Around," the first no. 1 r&b single for the history-making label. In the years that followed, he continued to pen hits for the group, including "You've Really Got a Hold on Me," "Ooo Baby Baby," "The Tracks of My Tears," "Tears of a Clown" (cowritten with Stevie Wonder), and "I Second That Emotion." He became vice president of Motown Records while continuing to write and produce such Motown masterpieces as "The Way You Do the Things You Do," "My Girl," "Get Ready," "Ain't That Peculiar," and "My Guy." Later, Robinson would embark on a solo career producing several more successful singles like "Cruisin'" and "Quiet Storm." Robinson has garnered numerous honors, which include a Grammy Living Legend Award, the National Medal of the Arts, a NARAS Lifetime Achievement Award, and inductions into both the Rock 'n' Roll and the Songwriter's Halls of Fame.

Linda Ronstadt, considered one of the most versatile, and commercially successful female singers in history, has topped charts in the pop, country, rock, big band, jazz, opera, Broadway, Mexican, and Afro-Cuban genres. After leaving the group Stone Poneys, she launched her solo career in 1968 with two albums that established the California country-rock movement. Her third release in 1971 paired her with session musicians who later became the Eagles. Over the next several years Ronstadt produced many million-selling albums, including Heart Like a Wheel, Simple Dreams, and Livin' in the U.S.A., that spawned successful singles still heard on rock and pop airwaves today: "You're No Good," "Poor Pitiful Me," "Blue Bayou," and "Tumbling Dice." Ronstadt then transitioned to the Broadway stage and went on to create several albums of standards. At the end of the '80s, she returned to her contemporary pop and country roots and recorded more hits like "Somewhere Out There" with James Ingram and "Don't Know Much," from the  critically acclaimed collaboration with Aaron Neville, and another million-selling country album Trio, with Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris. Over the span of her career she has sold over 50 million albums worldwide and been awarded more than 30 gold and platinum records, and 11 Grammy Awards. Recently, Ronstadt has emerged as a national arts advocate.

Juan Luis Guerra is a singer, songwriter, producer, and one of the most internationally recognized artists from the Dominican Republic. Guerra fused the country's bachata rhythms with merengue, bolero, Afro-pop, jazz, and other styles, including a large Beatles influence, mixing in his use of metaphor and indigenous popular expressions. In his homeland, he has earned the status of poet and musician of the people. After attending Berklee, he returned to the island and began recording with the group 440. The group's third album, Ojalá que Llueva Café, brought it international acclaim and its next record, Bachata Rose, earned, a Grammy. Guerra's 1998 solo album, Ni es lo Mismo ni es Igual, garnered three Latin Grammys and produced hits like "El Niágara En Bicicleta," "Quisiera," and "Mi PC." The 2004 album Para Ti brought him two Billboard awards in the Gospel-Pop and Tropical Merengue categories, the first time one song has won in those two areas simultaneously. He was awarded a Latino Special Award for his contributions to the music of his country and the Caribbean over the past 20 years. Guerra is credited with rejuvenating interest in tropical music, not only in Latin America but also in the United States, where he has sold out Madison Square Garden. The 2007 La Llave de Mi Corazón release earned five Latin Grammys, tying the record for the most awards of this kind won in one night, among 15 other honors. In 2008, Guerra was named UNESCO Artist for Peace.  

George Massenburg
 is a renowned producer and sound engineer, whose interest in music, electronics, and sound recording motivated him to take jobs in a recording studio and in a medical electronics laboratory at the age of 15. Now Billy Joel; Earth, Wind & Fire; Aaron Neville; Little Feat; James Taylor; Randy Newman; the Dixie Chicks; Carly Simon; and others are among the list of artists he has produced and engineered. Massenburg has won three Grammy Awards, one for Best Engineered Non-Classical Album in 1990 (Ronstadt's Cry Like a Rainstorm, Howl Like the Wind); Best Producer in 1996 (Ronstadt's Dedicated to the One I Love); and the Recording Academy's Technical Grammy in 1997, for numerous contributions to the art and technology of the modern recording studio. He has chartered several electronics companies, most notably his own, GML, LLC, allowing him to manufacture a number of devices crucial to the development of modern recording studios. He is chairman of the Technical Council on Studio Practices for the Audio Engineering Society and a member of the National Recording Preservation Board of the Library of Congress. In 2004 he was made a Fellow in the Audio Engineering Society and received the Gold Medal from the AES in 2008.

Learn more about Commencement at Berklee