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Ralph Stanley Receives Honorary Doctorate From Yale University

The award was presented by Yale president Peter Salovey, a bluegrass enthusiast himself.

photo by Michael Marsland/Yale University

Bluegrass legend Ralph Stanley has officially become a Doctor of Music after obtaining an honorary degree from Yale University on Monday (May 19).

The ceremony was held in New Haven, Conn., and also honored World Wide Web founder Tim Berners-Lee, poet Rita Dove and actor Anna Deavere Smith, among others.

Ralph’s award was presented by Yale president Peter Salovey, a bluegrass enthusiast himself who plays bass in a band called Professors of Bluegrass.

“You are the patriarch of traditional mountain and bluegrass music,” he read in Ralph’s citation. “From the Clinch Mountains of southwest Virginia to the concert halls of the world, you have taken a distinct American sound and made it your own. Your music has its roots in the gospel songs of your childhood and in the banjo playing you learned from your mother. The Stanley style of picking produces a distinctive and characteristic rhythm, and generations of singers have been influenced by your signature voice with its mournful sounds and raw emotional power. You are a living legend and we sing your praises as we award you this degree.”

Ralph received his first honorary doctorate in 1976 from Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tenn.

His latest album, Side by Side, is available now for purchase, and pairs him with his son and musical heir, Ralph Stanley II.

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