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Stephen Thompson

Stephen Thompson is an editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he writes the advice column The Good Listener, fusses over the placement of commas and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the weekly NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk.

In 1993, Thompson founded The Onion's entertainment section, The A.V. Club, which he edited until December 2004. In the years since, he has provided music-themed commentaries for the NPR programs Weekend Edition Sunday, All Things Considered and Morning Edition, on which he earned the distinction of becoming the first member of the NPR Music staff ever to sing on an NPR newsmagazine. (Later, the magic of AutoTune transformed him from a 12th-rate David Archuleta into a fourth-rate Cher.) Thompson's entertainment writing has also run in Paste magazine, The Washington Post and The London Guardian.

During his tenure at The Onion, Thompson edited the 2002 book The Tenacity Of The Cockroach: Conversations With Entertainment's Most Enduring Outsiders (Crown) and copy-edited six best-selling comedy books. While there, he also coached The Onion's softball team to a sizzling 21-42 record, and was once outscored 72-0 in a span of 10 innings. Later in life, Thompson redeemed himself by teaming up with the small gaggle of fleet-footed twentysomethings who won the 2008 NPR Relay Race, a triumph he documents in a hard-hitting essay for the book This Is NPR: The First Forty Years (Chronicle).

A 1994 graduate of the University of Wisconsin, Thompson now lives in Silver Spring, Md., with his two children, his girlfriend, their four cats and a room full of vintage arcade machines. His hobbies include watching reality television without shame, eating Pringles until his hand has involuntarily twisted itself into a gnarled claw, using the size of his Twitter following to assess his self-worth, touting the immutable moral superiority of the Green Bay Packers and maintaining a fierce rivalry with all Midwestern states other than Wisconsin.

In honor of MTV's 35th birthday Monday, the network has launched MTV Classic, a new channel featuring programming from the '90s and '00s. On the same day, we also wish a happy birthday to NPR Music and Pop Culture Happy Hour 's Stephen Thompson, who celebrates with an interview on All Things Considered about how MTV Classic is redefining which popular culture fits into the current environment for nostalgia. With the new channel, MTV — a pioneer of reality shows like The Real World and...

Charles Bradley took the stage at Stubb's BBQ in Austin, Texas, Wednesday night, clad in an amazing, rhinestone-bedecked jacket that made his cuffs and collar sparkle like diamonds. Not for nothing is he known as "the screaming eagle of soul." Even if only one of these statements were true — if he'd taken the stage in a rhinestone-bedecked jacket or if he was known as "the screaming eagle of soul" — Bradley would be almost too cool for this world. As it is, he seems practically otherworldly:...

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. It's hardly a new observation that when entertainers die prematurely, they tend to stay fixed in our imagination as forever young and beautiful — free of blemishes, missteps and the twin ravages of age and commercial decline. In the case of Jeff Buckley , who died at age 30 in 1997 after only a few years of recorded output, the phenomenon is even more pronounced: Because the years leading up to his death have been so...

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Newport Folk Festival programmers like to close their lineups on a note of uplift; to send fans to the exits feeling elated and moved. On that front, they couldn't have done much better than the great Mavis Staples , whose titanic career has spanned more than 60 years. From her time in the best-selling gospel family band The Staple Singers through her role in the civil rights movement, she's been a face of change and a voice behind some of the most powerful songs in modern history. In recent...

There aren't a whole lot of failures on the resume of Jeff Tweedy, who co-piloted the groundbreaking alt-country band Uncle Tupelo in the '80s and early '90s, then multiplied its popularity as the leader of Wilco . In that band, Tweedy's refusal to compromise his vision led to his greatest commercial success, vaulting idiosyncratic records like Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and A Ghost Is Born into the canon. In recent years, Tweedy has extended his reach behind the scenes, producing albums by the...

Far removed from his days as a white-knuckled teenage prodigy in Bright Eyes , Conor Oberst has settled into his 30s as a wise and wizened elder statesman. He's come to channel his youthful intensity into real showmanship, especially onstage, while continuing to mine powerful emotions and a sort of fearless poignancy in his songwriting. Oberst has worked with many bands since Bright Eyes, including Desaparecidos and Monsters of Folk, but his latest record, the very fine Upside Down Mountain ,...

The Newport Folk Festival sells out months before its lineup is announced, but fans aren't entirely in the dark: Most know there's at least a 50 percent chance that the lineup will include the countrified California roots-rock band Dawes . Led by brothers Taylor and Griffin Goldsmith, Dawes is a heartwarming crowd-pleaser, both on stage and on albums like last year's Stories Don't End . Dawes enthusiasts are doubly in luck with this year's lineup: The band not only gets its own set on the...

The Sunday lineup of 2014's Newport Folk Festival will take thousands of fans to church, as it opens with the Berklee Gospel & Roots Choir and closes with the gospel and R&B titan Mavis Staples . But in between, the lineup won't want for heavenward shouting: Ages and Ages plays sweetly shambling folk-rock, but its songs are infused with a communal spirit, heart-filling inspiration, and thoughts on how to live life fully and kindly. Ages and Ages' second album, this year's Divisionary , is...

In the past, the Berklee Gospel & Roots Choir has been employed as a sort of Newport Folk Festival palate-cleanser: a way to kick off the day with something kind, approachable, reverent and rooted in many folk traditions. This year, with Mavis Staples on top of the bill, the group, which opens the proceedings on Sunday, functioned as both and a theme-setter. As its name suggests, the group features some of the best and brightest at the talent-rich Berklee College of Music in Boston. Hear the...

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