Featuring Bono, Bowie and Patti Smith
Rebecca Schiller

19:04 26th May 2015

Graduates of Rutgers University in Camden, New Jersey received a special treat at their recent commencement ceremony when Jon Bon Jovi followed his speech with a performance of a new song called ‘Reunion’ to commemorate the occasion.

As the night ignites the day, go make some memories along the way,” he sings in the track. “Or write your song, sing along, love your life. Learn to laugh, dare to dance, touch the sky. Take pictures each step of the way. Make this the best of the rest of your days. Start your revolution. And I’ll see you at the reunion.” You can watch the full performance here.

Seeing as his commencement appearance was so memorable, we’ve decided to take a look back at some other unforgettably moving commencement speeches given by musicians over the years.

  • Kanye West: Earlier this month, Kanye spoke to the graduates of the Art Institute of Chicago, and was surprisingly nervous. "I felt my nerves a bit, and I don't feel that feeling a lot," he said. "The nerves of humility and modesty, when being honored. A humanization, a reality of being recognized. And all I thought as I sit here kind of shaking a little bit, is 'I need to get rid of that feeling'. I need to not be nervous." He also told graduates: "I am a pop artist, so my medium is public opinion and the world is my canvas." Click here to watch the full speech.

  • Jimmy Buffett: Earlier this month, Buffett spoke at the University of Miami, while embracing the local weather and wearing flip-flops and sunglasses. "Here is your Jimmy Buffett checklist for the ever lucid future," he told the graduates. His checklist included taking "all things in moderation", making your "avocation your vocation", which will lead to your life being blissful, traveling is important and it is "time to see the world", and "Be Santa Claus when you can. Just being a graduate of this great university makes you a lot luckier than most. Don't ever take this opportunity as something you deserved." Click here to watch the full speech.

  • Yoko Ono: Unsurprisingly, Yoko Ono's commencement speech at the Maine College of Art in 2003 began with a 10-second shriek, but she went on to share some beautiful sentiments with the 84 graduating students. "Art is love," she said in her speech. "What we artists give to society is love. Right now, love is what is most needed in our society." She also went on to say that "you can't dance if you've got too much muck in your head." Ono also made an appearance at the 2014 graduation for Pratt Institute, telling that graduating class: "Let's together be the metronome of our very troubled human culture or human race."

  • Alice Cooper: Is there a better way to celebrate completing college than having shock rocker Alice Cooper give the commencement speech? "It raises a lot of flags that I am your keynote speaker today - a certain lack of judgment on somebody's part," he joked when beginning his speech at the Musicians Institute in Los Angeles in 2012. But Cooper had some words of wisdom for the graduates, including: "If you succeed, you become a genius. If you fail, you become an idiot. You can always start again."; "Mediocrity is your greatest enemy"; and "If you're going to be in this business, don't be afraid to go out on that limb as far as you can." Click here to watch the full speech.

  • Dolly Parton: Parton had one request for the University of Tennessee, Knoxville class of 2009, asking that they "learn more". "When I was in school I only made average grades," she said. "Maybe it was because I dreamed to much about music and becoming a star. Or maybe I was paying to much attention to the boys. Or maybe I was just your typical dumb A. And I know there's a lot of us out there. But, anyway it took me a while to realize that the more you learn about everything, the easier it is to do it." Click here to watch the full speech.

  • Annie Lennox: A memorable commencement speech at the Berklee College of Music came from Annie Lennox in 2013, when she told graduates: "Consider this, wherever you think you're heading right now might turn out to take a completely different path. What looks like an ending might actually be the start of a brand new beginning." Click here to watch the full speech.

  • Sting: Sting was also amongst the speakers at the Berklee College Of Music, having given a speech to the class of 1994. "As musicians, whether we're successful, playing to thousands of people every night, or not so successful, playing in bars or small clubs, or not successful at all, just playing alone in your apartment to the cat, we are doing something that can heal souls, that can mend us when our spirits are broken," he said in his speech. "Whether you make a million dollars or not one cent, music and silence are priceless gifts, may you always possess them. May they always possess you." Click here to read the full speech.

  • David Bowie: Graduates of the Berklee College of Music in 1999 were fortunate enough to be visited by David Bowie during their commencement. "Music has given me over 40 years of extraordinary experiences," he told his audience. "I can't say that life's pains or more tragic episodes have been diminished because of it. But it's allowed me so many moments of companionship when I've been lonely and a sublime means of communication when I wanted to touch people. It's been both my doorway of perception and the house that I live in. I only hope that it embraces you with the same lusty life force that it graciously offered me." Click here to watch the full speech or here to read it.

  • Billy Joel: He's given quite a few commencement speeches over the years, but perhaps his most memorable one is from the 1993 graduation ceremony at Berklee College of Music. Being a musician is a "real job", he told the graduating class of fellow musicians. "I have said before to those who have expressed doubts and misgivings about their ability to live this kind of life maybe they shouldn't try, because being a musician is not something you chose to be, it is something you are, like tall or short or straight or gay. There is no choice, either you is or you ain't." Click here to read the full speech.

  • Patti Smith: "I'm telling you these simple things: taking care of your teeth, being happy...they will be your greatest allies," Patti Smith told the 2010 graduates of the Pratt Institute. "Because when you're happy, you ignite that little flame that tells you and reminds you who you are, and it will ignite, it will animate your enthusiasm for things. It will enforce your work." Click here to watch the full speech.

  • Bono: "My name is Bono and I am a rock star." That is, of course, how the U2 frontman's 2004 commencement speech at the University of Pennsylvania began. He went on to add: "The future is not fixed, it's fluid. You can build your own building, or hut or condo, whatever... But my point is that the world is more malleable than you think and it's waiting for you to hammer it into shape. Now if I were a folksinger I'd immediately launch into 'If I Had a Hammer' right now get you all singing and swaying. But as I say I come from punk rock, so I'd rather have the bloody hammer right here in my fist. That's what this degree of yours is, a blunt instrument. So go forth and build something with it." Click here to watch the full speech or here to read it.

  • Jimmy Page: The Led Zeppelin frontman spoke to graduates of the Berklee College of Music in 2014, telling them that music "has so much power across so many avenues, to be in a position to do the thing you're best at, which is making music, and bringing joy and pleasure to other people, it can't be much better than that. I wish to pass that on to all of you." Click here to watch the full speech.

  • Sean Combs: "When you leave here today, go forth with the knowledge that you have the power to change the world," Diddy told the graduating class of Howard University in 2014, "embrace your power and turn your dreams into reality." He went on to tell the audience that "Nobody is going to invite you to the front of the line; you got to push your way to the front of the line." Click here to watch the full speech.

  • John Legend: A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania himself, Legend returned to the college in 2009 and again in 2014 to speak to the graduating classes. "We're taught when we're young that the opposite of love is hate, but it's not," he told the 2014 class. "Hate is a byproduct, hate is a result. Being a hater isn't cool - nobody wants that. But hate comes from one thing: fear. Fear is the opposite of love." Click here to watch the full speech.

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