Usher & Roberta Flack to receive honorary doctorates from Berklee College

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Usher & Roberta Flack to receive honorary doctorates from Berklee College

Usher and Roberta Flack are upgrading to doctors. As announced Thursday (April 20), Berklee College of Music will award the the artists with honorary doctorate degrees at this year’s commencement ceremony.

The ceremony will take place the morning of May 13 at Boston University’s Agganis Arena, where multi-instrumentalist Sona Jorbarteh will also receive an honorary degree. All three of the honorees will have the chance to address the 2023 class of graduates at the ceremony, and each will be further celebrated with a reception and concert on the eve of commencement, featuring more than 200 student vocalists, musicians, dancers, arrangers and producers from the graduating class performing a musical tribute to their work.

Usher and Flack join an impressive and diverse list of musicians who’ve received honorary degrees from Berklee in years past, including Duke Ellington, Aretha Franklin, Quincy Jones, Celine Dion, B.B. King, Joni Mitchell, Chaka Khan, Esperanza Spalding, Willie Nelson, Missy Elliott, Ringo Starr, Gloria Estefan and John Legend. An eight-time Grammy winner and nine-time Billboard Hot 100 chart-topper, the “Yeah!” singer is being recognized for his accomplishments in music, film and activism.

“No. 1 is always going to mean a lot to everybody. But it doesn’t, and shouldn’t, change your passion,” he told Billboard in 2021. “It hasn’t changed mine, whether I put out a record that hit No. 1 instantly or took time to get there. I have a record company that’s willing to fight for it and get it heard, to connect with my audience and prospective new fans. I’ve tried a lot of stuff. There’s a way to play in R&B where you can be as creative as you want. Don’t cut yourself off — don’t feel you need to be tied so authentically to one thing.”

Four-time Grammy winner Flack has topped the Hot 100 three times: “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” in 1972, “Killing Me Softly With His Song” in 1973 and “Feel Like Makin’ Love” in 1974. She was the first artist to win back-to-back Grammys for record of the year, for “Face” and “Killing Me Softly.” In all the years since, only U2 and Billie Eilish have equaled that achievement. In addition, Flack received a lifetime achievement award the Recording Academy in 2020.