Strawbs founder honoured by University of Leicester
The University of Leicester’s winter graduation ceremonies struck a chord with music lovers today (20 January), as the founder of rock band Strawbs and a pivotal player in the radio industry was awarded an honorary degree.
The University conferred an honorary Doctor of Music (DMus) degree on David Cousins, musician, songwriter and founder of UK rock group Strawbs, at its graduation ceremonies on Friday 20 January. Students heard from David by video as he was unable to attend on the day.
David is a University of Leicester alumnus, holding a degree in statistics and pure mathematics. While studying at Leicester, he also formed the University Folk Club and organised the first folk festival.
On receiving his Honorary Degree, David said: “I am delighted to be awarded this honorary degree by the University of Leicester. My student days were a formative and highly rewarding experience. Those times in Leicester widened my musical horizons and established disciplines that I have used throughout to underpin my varied careers.”
David grew up in Chiswick, West London. After rehearsing in London’s Strawberry Hill area in 1964, before appearing on the BBC’s ‘Saturday Club’ alongside The Beatles, he formed The Strawberry Hill Boys, later to become better known as Strawbs.
Following the self-titled, critically acclaimed, debut album released in 1969, Strawbs would go on to have a string of successful albums and single hits in the UK and North America, evolving from playing bluegrass music to folk rock, and on to progressive rock. While Strawbs went through several line-up changes, which at one point welcomed Rick Wakeman on keyboards - who would leave to join progressive rock band Yes – David remained a constant. But being in a band wasn’t the only path on his career journey.
David also played a pivotal role in the radio industry, initially from 1969-1973, as a producer for Danmarks Radio (DR), introducing new and emerging bands to the Danish airwaves. In 1980, he left the music business and was appointed programme controller of Radio Tees, one of the first independent local radio stations, based in Stockton-on-Tees. David subsequently became managing director of DevonAir Radio in the West Country. In 1990 he was employed by Radio Television Luxembourg (RTL), the international media conglomerate, as the company’s UK special projects director. David was instrumental in fronting many successful franchise applications and business ventures involving radio stations such as XFM, and as chairman of Radio Victory in Portsmouth.
In 2001, David returned to songwriting and playing music. He founded Witchwood Media Limited, an independent record and publishing company. David has written and recorded well over 250 songs.
In an interview for the University (LINK), he gave his fellow graduands advice drawn from his diverse career: “Don't think in straight lines ahead - think laterally. You never know what might be just around the corner.”
- David Cousins received an honorary Doctor of Music (DMus) degree at the afternoon graduation ceremony on Friday 20 January 2023