Lionel Richie, Lucinda Williams, Todd Rundgren, Neil Portnow, and Shin Joong Hyun to Receive Honorary Degrees at Berklee Commencement

By 
Nick Balkin
March 13, 2017
Press release
yes
Lionel Richie
Lucinda Williams
Todd Rundgren
Neil Portnow
Shin Joong Hyun
Image by Alan Silfen
Image by David McClister
Image by Danny O'Conner
Image by Randee St. Nicholas

Berklee President Roger H. Brown will present Lionel Richie, Lucinda Williams, Todd Rundgren, Neil Portnow, and Shin Joong Hyun with honorary doctor of music degrees at Berklee's commencement ceremony, Saturday, May 13, at the 7,000-seat Agganis Arena at Boston University. Rundgren, this year's commencement speaker, will address more than 1,000 Berklee graduates along with their parents and invited guests.

This year's honorary doctorate recipients are being recognized for their achievements and influences in music, and for their enduring contributions to American and international culture. Past recipients include Duke Ellington (the first, in 1971), Aretha Franklin, Dizzy Gillespie, Quincy Jones, Smokey Robinson, Steven Tyler, Loretta Lynn, Juan Luis Guerra, Annie Lennox, Paco de Lucia, Carole King, Willie Nelson, Alison Krauss, George Clinton, Rita Moreno, Julio Iglesias, Plácido Domingo, and A. R. Rahman.

As is Berklee's tradition, on commencement eve, Friday, May 12, students will pay tribute to the honorees by performing music associated with their careers at the Agganis. The concert and ceremony are not open to the public.

Lionel Richie

Musical icon and international superstar Lionel Richie is one of the most popular and commercially successful artists of all time. As a member of the seminal funk/soul outfit, the Commodores, he wrote and sang numerous hits, including "Easy," "Three Times a Lady," "Brick House," and "Still," establishing the band as Motown's top act of the late '70s. He achieved even greater fame as a solo artist, scoring 13 consecutive top 10 singles between 1981–1987, a legendary run that included the No. 1 hits "Truly," "All Night Long (All Night)," "Say You, Say Me," "Hello," and "We Are the World," which he cowrote with Michael Jackson. Richie has won four Grammys, an Oscar, a Golden Globe, 16 American Music Awards, and five People's Choice Awards. In 2016, he received the Songwriters Hall of Fame's highest honor, the Johnny Mercer Award, and was named the Grammy's MusiCares Person of the Year. With more than 100 million records sold worldwide, he is one of the best-selling artists in music history.

Lucinda Williams

Hailed by Time magazine as "America's best songwriter," Lucinda Williams is a three-time Grammy winner whose distinctive style, expressive voice, and deeply personal songwriting made her one of the most critically acclaimed artists of her era. After releasing her debut album in 1979, she amassed a small but devoted cult following that expanded over the course of two decades. In 1988, she released her self-titled album, Lucinda Williams, which featured "Passionate Kisses," a song that would later win Williams her first Grammy. With 1998's breakthrough, Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, she achieved mainstream success and staked her claim as one of America’s most vital songwriters. Universally loved by fans and critics, the record remains her best-selling album to date. Williams's 12th studio album, The Ghosts of Highway 20, was released in 2016. The 14-track double album contains some of the most affecting songs of her illustrious, decades-spanning career.

Todd Rundgren

As a songwriter, producer, recording artist, and pioneer of multimedia and computer technology, Todd Rundgren has made a lasting impact on both the form and content of popular music. His seminal 1972 double album, Something/Anything?, on which he played all the instruments, sang all the vocal parts, and acted as his own producer, is ranked on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. It was followed by landmark albums The Hermit of Mink Hollow and A Wizard, A True Star, as well as hit singles "I Saw the Light," "Hello It's Me," "Can We Still Be Friends," and "Bang the Drum All Day." In addition to his own recordings, Rundgren has produced notable albums for Patti Smith, Cheap Trick, Psychedelic Furs, Meat Loaf, XTC, Grand Funk Railroad, Hall & Oates, and others. Rundgren continues to tour with Ringo Starr and perform with symphony orchestras both in the U.S. and internationally. His newest studio album, White Knight, will be released on May 12.

Neil Portnow

During the course of his career, Neil Portnow has been a leading figure in the music and recording industry, liaising with music makers, corporate executives, political figures, and worldwide brands. He has served as president of the Recording Academy since 2002, and was named president/CEO in 2007. Some of Portnow's most notable achievements include testifying before Congress to protect the rights of creators; ensuring that the music community has a safe place to turn in times of need through the Academy's MusiCares charity; advocating for the arts and developing programs for music education in schools; and conducting industry outreach in order to constantly increase awareness of and accessibility to the Grammy Awards process. He has worked tirelessly to enhance the organization's overall mission of improving the cultural condition and quality of life for music and its makers. Under his leadership, the annual Grammy Awards telecast has enjoyed stellar ratings, making it one of the industry’s most coveted awards shows.

Shin Joong Hyun

Known as the “Godfather of Rock” in his native South Korea, producer and musician Shin Joong Hyun has shaped the direction of Korean pop, rock, soul, and other musical styles. After releasing a solo guitar album under the stage name “Hiky Shin,” he started South Korea’s first rock band, Add4, in 1961. He produced the hit song “Nimah” for Korea’s first female group, the Pearl Sisters, in 1968, and went on to write and produce several other hit records including, “Keopi Hanjan” (A Cup of Coffee) and “Geojitmariya” (It’s a Lie). In 1974, he released the album Shin Joong Hyun and Yeopjeondeul, which rocketed him to fame in Asia. In 1972, he was asked to write a song in praise of President Park Chung-Hee, but when he refused — and instead wrote a song about the beauty of Korea called “Ahreumdaun Gangsan” (Beautiful Rivers and Mountains) — he was banned from public performance for years. Despite this, Shin continued to be an influential figure and his songs were recognized as masterpieces in Korean rock history. In 2009, Fender honored Shin with a Fender Custom Shop Tribute Series guitar, making him the sixth musician in the world and the first Asian musician to receive a tribute guitar from the renowned brand. Shin’s first U.S. record, Beautiful Rivers and Mountains: The Psychedelic Rock Sound of South Korea’s Shin Jung Hyeon 1958-74, was released in 2011 on Light in the Attic Records.