Stevie Wonder was performing on an electronic keyboard and harmonica before a crowd of about 700 as he and Bill Cosby and Cosby's wife, Camille, were awarded honorary doctorates at Oberlin College in northeast Ohio.
Motown great Wonder says: "It is exciting to be at this college, the first northern college to accept African-Americans."
The school with a history of tolerance and activism first accepted black students in the 1830s.
Earlier Friday, Wonder had performed with Oberlin musicians for local school children. Cosby also gave a performance on campus.