Entering a competitive industry such as the music business is no easy task, so it’s inspiring to know that some notable UCLA alumni have gone on to pursue successful music careers. From the emerging 10-man indie band Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, to past Spring Sing winner and soulful songwriter Sara Bareilles, to pop sensation Maroon 5, members from each group have created catchy, inspiring and recognizable music for the world to enjoy and still managed to obtain a UCLA degree. Here are a few notable contributors to some of the popular musical acts many of us know and love.
Sara Bareilles, singer and songwriter
Before Sara Bareilles graduated in 2002 from UCLA with a bachelor’s degree in communication studies, she began her singing career as part of UCLA’s Awaken A Cappella group. Her first solo performance occurred at the annual Spring Sing concert in 2001. She went on to win Spring Sing in 2002 and 2003. In 2005, she signed a deal with Epic Records. In 2007, Bareilles released her debut album “Little Voice,” which became a Billboard Top 10 seller with the help of her hit “Love Song.” “Love Song” reached No. 4 on the Billboard singles chart and went on to receive a Song of the Year nomination at the 51st Annual Grammy Awards. Her latest album, “Kaleidoscope Heart” was released Sept. 7.
Jim Morrison, lead singer and songwriter, and Ray Manzarek, keyboardist and songwriter of The Doors
Originally meeting as students of the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television, Ray Manzarek and Jim Morrison reconnected shortly after graduating in 1965. Together with drummer John Densmore and guitarist Robby Krieger, The Doors was formed and released its first, self-titled album in 1967. While “Break On Through,” was their breakthrough song, “Light My Fire,” was the song that brought The Doors fame and fortune, as it became the No. 1 song in July 1967. Their follow-up album “Strange Days” and a notorious appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show” proved that The Doors was a phenomenon, thanks to Morrison’s powerful lyricism and undeniable stage presence. While The Doors released two other albums in the late ’60s, the band’s success was short-lived after the untimely death of Morrison in 1971.
Brad Delson, lead guitarist, and Dave Farrell, bassist for Linkin Park
Brad Delson graduated with a degree in communications studies in 1999 from UCLA, where he was roommates with bassist Dave Farrell. Linkin Park joined Warner Brothers Records in 1999 and released their first album, “Hybrid Theory” in 2000, the title coming from the original name the group had when the members first came together. The album’s “nu metal” sounds combined elements of rock, alternative metal and rap with Chester Bennington’s vocals and Mike Shinoda’s raps. The album became hugely successful, selling more than 18 million copies and earning the Diamond Award for selling more than 10 million copies. The band’s follow-ups, “Meteora” (2003) and “Minutes to Midnight” (2007), both landed the No. 1 slot on the Billboard charts, as did their 2004 mash-up album with Jay-Z, “Collision Course.” Linkin Park’s new album, “A Thousand Suns,” was released on Sept. 14.
Greg Graffin, singer for Bad Religion and life science professor at UCLA
In addition to forming the band Bad Religion, lead singer Greg Graffin, with the help of his
band members, formed the indie punk-hip hop label Epitaph, which helped the band launch its own albums, beginning with “How Could Hell Be Any Worse?” in 1982. After some members left and others joined, Bad Religion reemerged in 1987, the same year Graffin graduated from UCLA with a master’s degree in geology. Bad Religion gained wider success in the 1990s, and at one point, signed with a major label. In 2006, Graffin released a solo effort titled “Cold as the Clay.” In 2007, Graffin returned to UCLA, this time as a life science professor teaching evolution.
Mickey Madden, bass player, and Ryan Dusick, original drummer for Maroon 5
Before original members Mickey Madden and Ryan Dusick attended UCLA, they formed the band Kara’s Flowers in high school with other Maroon 5 members Adam Levine and Jesse Carmichael. After landing a record deal with Reprise, Kara’s Flowers released an unsuccessful album, and the band split up while its members attended college. They regrouped in 2001, added guitarist James Valentine, and formed Maroon 5. Their debut album, “Songs About Jane,” was released in 2002 and slowly gained success when the song “Harder to Breathe” rose to No. 18 on the Billboard charts. Other singles on the album, “This Love” and “She Will Be Loved,” catapulted the band to success, and it eventually went quadruple platinum. Maroon 5 won Best New Artist at the Grammy Awards in 2005 and has gone on to win two more. In 2007, Maroon 5 released “It Won’t Be Soon Before Long” with new drummer Matt Flynn, which enjoyed success thanks to the No. 1 hit “Makes Me Wonder.” The band’s new album, “Hands All Over,” was released this past September.
John Ondrasik, singer and songwriter for Five For Fighting
Graduating from UCLA in 1988 with a degree in applied mathematics, John Ondrasik began a music career after receiving piano lessons from his mother at a young age. He expanded his knowledge in music by learning the guitar at age 13 and receiving vocal lessons, including training in opera. In 1997, he released his debut album “Message for Albert.” Five for Fighting became the name of his one-man band, named after the five-minute penalty for fighting in a hockey game. His 2000 album “America Town” led to his breakthrough hit “Superman (It’s Not Easy).” Both “America Town” and subsequent album “The Battle for Everything” (2004) were certified platinum, cementing Ondrasik’s status as an influential, conscientious singer and songwriter who writes heartfelt songs with underlying social messages. He has since released two albums, “Two Lights” (2006) and “Slice” (2009).