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Commencement Honorary Doctorate

Fall 2023 Commencement

Singer/Songwriter Wanda Jackson


Wanda Jackson

Wanda Jackson is a legendary American singer-songwriter known for her unique style that blends rockabilly, country and rock 'n' roll. She was born on October 20, 1937, in Maud, Oklahoma, and grew up in a musical family. 


At the age of 14, Jackson won a local radio station contest, which led to her discovery by the king of western swing, Hank Thompson. In 1954, at the age of 17, Jackson made her first recording with Decca Records, a duet with Billy Gray titled "You Can't Have My Love." She initially sang country music but soon switched to rock, becoming the first female artist to do so when the latter genre was just getting started.


Her hits like "Let's Have a Party," "Fujiyama Mama," and "Mean Mean Man" helped establish her as a prominent figure in rockabilly and early rock scenes. Before retiring from the stage at age 81 in 2019, Jackson was known for performances that were full of energy, charisma, and her distinctive voice, leaving an impact that united audiences around the world. 


Often referred to as the "Queen of Rockabilly" and "The First Lady of Rock'n'Roll," she influenced many musicians, including Elvis Presley, who encouraged her to incorporate rock into her music. Other modern artists including Adele, Cyndi Lauper and Elle King have cited Wanda as a strong influence. 


Throughout her career, Jackson released over 40 albums and received numerous awards, including induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2009. She is also a member of the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame and the Rockabilly Hall of Fame, among others. 


In 2017, Jackson released her autobiography titled "Every Night is Saturday Night: A Country Girl's Journey to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame," and in 2021, she released her final album, "Encore," produced by Joan Jett. Today, she is recognized as one of the most influential artists in music history and continues to inspire new generations of musicians with her timeless style.

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