Some Artists Really Are Too Cool for School

Is higher education the best thing for everyone?

By David Yaffe (Syracuse)

I just finished teaching a poetry class in which nearly every poet had a degree from the Ivy League or Seven Sisters. But plenty of great artists never went to college, or else they dropped out. Walt Whitman and Hart Crane didn’t seem to miss college degrees, and in Tin Pan Alley, neither did George and Ira Gershwin.

True, Cole Porter graduated from Yale, where he was the greatest Whiffenpoof ever. The inventor of the modern incarnation of singer-songwriter, Bob Dylan, blew off classes at the University of Minnesota for a one-way ticket to New York City, Woody Guthrie, and destiny, but Guthrie’s fellow troubadour Pete Seeger attended Harvard (before dropping out), where his father was a musicologist. Suzanne Vega majored in English at Barnard, and Paul Simon did the same at Queens College and even did a little time in law school. (Like a litigator, Simon would sometimes begin his verses with facts: “They’ve got a wall in China / It’s a thousand miles long.”)

Leonard Cohen not only has a literature degree from Continue reading “Some Artists Really Are Too Cool for School”

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