This Charming Grad – Johnny Marr honoured by University
He found fame with legendary Manchester band The Smiths, and now Johnny Marr’s outstanding achievements in a music career spanning four decades have been recognised with the granting of an honorary degree by the University of Salford.
The influential guitarist and songwriter, whose distinctive sound has been credited with changing the face of British guitar music and inspiring a generation of indie bands across the world, will receive a doctorate of arts on Thursday 19 July as part of the University’s graduation ceremonies.
Born in Ardwick in 1963, Marr taught himself the guitar at 11 and as a teenager started writing songs and playing in various bands in Manchester. At 17 he decided to form a band and approached Steven Morrissey from Stretford, a singer four years his senior and a well known figure around the Manchester punk scene.
The pair christened their new band The Smiths and a new chapter in pop music history began. From 1982 until 1987 The Smiths embarked on a career of unforgettable shows and record releases and, through Marr’s original and dazzling musicality and Morrissey’s unique outsider world view, they redefined British guitar pop.
After disbanding The Smiths, Marr started a prolific career as a co-writer and collaborator with a number of hugely significant groups and musicians such as Talking Heads, The The, Bryan Ferry, Beck and Electronic, as well as discovering new local talent Oasis. He has been cited as an influence by many more bands, including Blur, Radiohead and Manic Street Preachers.
In 2005 he joined Modest Mouse and achieved his first US number one album, before moving back to the UK in 2010 to join The Cribs for their first UK top ten LP Ignore The Ignorant. In 2011 Marr scored his first film soundtrack called The Big Bang, and then recorded the soundtrack to the film Inception with legendary composer Hans Zimmer.
He joined the University of Salford in 2007 as a visiting professor in popular music. His regular masterclasses have helped to inspire a new generation of musicians joining a long line of successful bands to have studied at the University.
Marr said: “I’m very pleased to be given an honorary degree by Salford University. I've enjoyed working with the students in my capacity as visiting professor and hopefully we can find some more opportunities for creative work in the future.”
At the graduation ceremonies, held at The Lowry from Tuesday 17 to Friday 20 July, the University will also bestow honorary degrees on five other people in recognition of impressive attainment in their respective fields.
Salfordian bookmaker Fred Done will receive a doctorate of business administration, acknowledging his achievements as an entrepreneur and contribution to the North West through his businesses including Betfred, and employment law, insurance, sports travel and property companies.
Mike Peasland, Chief Executive of UK Construction Services at Balfour Beatty, will be awarded a doctorate of science for his work in the construction industry over more than 40 years. He is currently also Chair of Balfour Beatty’s worldwide sustainability strategy group, Chair of The Prince’s Trust Construction and Business Services Leadership Group, and he is a member of the Executive Committee of the UK Contractors’ Group.
Professor Peter Brandon OBE will gain a doctorate of the University, celebrating his service to the academic community, specifically in the establishment of the built environment as a legitimate subject for academic study and research. In 1990 he set up the internationally-renowned School of the Built Environment at Salford (then known as the Department of Surveying) and in 2010 he was awarded an OBE for services to the built environment.
Former University of Salford Council member Chris Wells will become a doctor of the University in appreciation of his contribution to the development of the institution since his retirement from the police service in 2001. During a 36-year police career, Chris worked as a sergeant in Salford before a series of promotions led to him becoming a chief superintendent in the city. Since Chris’s retirement he has been heavily involved in the evolution of the University, and his other voluntary roles include being a trustee of the Booth Charities and the University’s Students’ Union.
In recognition of his status as an alumnus of the University and the exceptional achievements he has realised in his career, Mauritian academic Dr Michael Atchia will be presented with a doctorate of science. Dr Atchia is credited with establishing the field of ‘education for sustainable development’ and has been a consultant with the United Nations and the British Council. Having gained an MSc and PhD at Salford during the seventies, he worked at the Mauritius Institute of Education and later for the UN Environment Programme before becoming a director of education and a senior adviser to the Minister of Education in Mauritius.
University Vice-Chancellor Professor Martin Hall said: “All our honorary graduands have made outstanding contributions to their fields of work and expertise, and we will be proud to have them join our community through these awards.”