Jimmy Page kept his remarks to a short and sweet five minutes at the Berklee College of Music commencement ceremony Saturday morning at the Agganis Arena.
The Led Zeppelin guitarist was on hand to receive an honorary doctorate and admitted that he had prepared a speech but after hearing the students pay tribute to him the night before at the annual commencement concert at the venue he tossed the speech aside, quipping, “Here I am, a busking musician trying to busk my speech.”
Page gave kudos to the students, who had played a variety of tunes for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame double inductee, including Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll” and “Stairway to Heaven,” and to his fellow honorees, legendary songwriter Valerie Simpson of Ashford & Simpson, acclaimed jazz pianist Geri Allen, and Grammy-winning trumpeter-composer Thara Memory. “The quality of musicianship that was shown last night was really moving,” Page told the students.
He offered sincere gratitude for the honor, saying, “This is absolutely so amazing, and it’s such a privilege to be a part of this and feel all the energy coming from you graduates, congratulations.”
Page, a mostly self-taught musician, shared stories of his pre-fame sojourn as a session musician in England — playing on everything from TV jingles to the “Goldfinger” soundtrack to Kinks records — during which he learned to read music under pressure and so he appreciated the discipline of the Berklee students. His honorary defgree puts him in a rarefied group of previously awarded artists that include idols like B.B. King and George Martin.
Page closed by wishing the class of 2014 the best of luck.
The other honorees also shared a few words, with Memory remarking of the Friday concert, “You all know how to party!” And an ecstatic Simpson urging the graduates to treat every rehearsal like a performance and jubilantly shouting, “I am so proud of you, your future is so bright. Carry on, y’all!”
Sarah Rodman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.