Clem Burke to be Awarded Honorary Doctorate of Music

They call me Dr. Drum...

By , Contributor

Who knew that Blondie drummer Clem Burke was such an enlightened thinker? Apparently the Universities of Gloucestershire and Chichester did because on July 30 they are awarding Burke with an Honorary Doctorate of Music not only for excellence as a drummer who’s recorded and performed with the likes of Bob Dylan, Joan Jett, Iggy Pop, Brian Wilson, the Ramones, Pete Townshend, and Johnny Thunders, but for his groundbreaking work on the physical demands of drumming and how that can promote physical and psychological well-being.

Back in 1999 Clem starting working with Dr Marcus Smith on the physiological demands of playing the drums during rehearsal and live in concert. Then in July of 2008 before the last Blondie reunion, the New Jersey native launched the Clem Burke Project in conjunction with the two universities with the goal of looking into the physiological demands of his profession.

What the research uncovered was that professional drummers had a heart rate profile akin to professional football players and expended a significant amount of energy per performance—with much less of the head injuries—unless of course you’re talking about Dave Grohl when he was in Nirvana, or Mountain Goats and Superchunk drummer Jon Wurster during any given show. What that means is that not only can you bang your way to good mental health but into good health and a small size of Varvatos jeans.

Just to ensure that this isn’t a fluke, and Burke’s finding aren’t atypical, the Project is also about to publish data on 15 professional drummers that shows that the initial findings on Clem's performance are typical. Darrin Mooney, drummer for Primal Scream, Matt Tong from Bloc Party, Rob Rolfe of Enter Shikari, Kevin Figueiredo, drummer with Extreme, and musician Jeremy Hickey, known as R.S.A.G., have been working with the research team in physiological testing that measures heart rate, oxygen uptake, and blood lactate levels in rehearsal testing and during live shows.

An important finding to this study is that introducing drumming among primary school children can have a positive effect on the obesity epidemic among children—which might be the best outcome at all.

"I would never have expected that my work with the Clem Burke Drumming Project would result in such an award. It is truly a great honor and I accept this award on behalf of my brother drummers everywhere in the world."

The honorary award will be conferred on July 30 at the Rhythmfest drumming summer school taking place at the University of Gloucestershire's Park campus in Cheltenham.

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Jaan Uhelszki was one of the founding editors at Detroit’s legendary Creem magazine. Since that time, her work has appeared in USA Today, Uncut, Rolling Stone, Spin, NME, Relix, and Guitar World. She is the only journalist to have ever performed in full makeup with Kiss. Luckily she only had to put…

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