Photo by Riccardo Dragani.

Photo by Riccardo Dragani.


Welcome to Riffs, Beats, & Codas.

My name is Vincent L. Stephens and I am excited to share my writing on popular music with you!

R, B, & C is written for people interested in reading a fresh perspective on popular music. I launched the site in February 2015 as a space for sharing ideas on popular music that complements my academic writing. Each month, I publish critical commentary on a musically related topic on the essay blog. The site also features a book review blog, including autobiographies, biographies, and critical studies published on academic and commercial presses. Periodically, I publish excerpts from ongoing musical writing projects such as Learning to Listen, focused on great post-WWII singers; Loud Women: Portraits of Disruptive Women in American pop focused on women who challenge musical conventions; and an Unnamed Mariah Carey cultural criticism project. The site also features "Learning to Listen" interviews spotlighting interviews with diverse individuals discussing key moments when they “learned to listen” to music critically. R, B, & C also features links to other books, encyclopedias, scholarly journals, and websites featuring my writing.

The Basics

I  am an essayist and scholar who writes about post-WWII U.S. popular culture. I have published essays in academic journals on multiple genres of popular music including essays on Eminem in Popular Music,  the definition of jazz singing in American Music, and Johnny Mathis in Popular Music and Society, which won the 2010 R. Serge Denisoff Award for Best Article Published in Popular Music and Society.

My writing about the soft rock genre appears in the Continuum Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World, Volume VIII (David Horn, editor; Continuum, 2012) and recent published work includes “Open Secrecy: Self-Presentation by Queer Male Musicians” in Masquerade: Essays on Tradition and Innovation Worldwide (Deborah Bell, editor; McFarland & Co., 2014). I have also written about vocal jazz for All About Jazz Online and have several forthcoming essays.

Additionally, I have published essays on television, film, and literary fiction  in African-American Review, The Journal of Popular Culture, and Culture, Trauma, and Conflict: Cultural Perspectives on War [2nd edition] (Nico Carpentier, editor; Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2015).

In 2017, Bucknell University Press/Rowman & Littlefield published the anthology Postracial America? An Interdisciplinary Study co-edited by me and Anthony Stewart.

For more info please go to the following link (copy & paste):

 I regularly update the site regarding forthcoming work! In fall 2019 look for my new book Rocking the Closet: How Little Richard, Johnnie Ray, Liberace, and Johnny Mathis Queered Pop Music (University of Illinois Press). I am also excited for the publication of my essay, “Camping and Vamping across Borders: Locating Cabaret Singers in the Black Cultural Spectrum” in Are You Entertained? New Essays on Black Culture in the 21st Century. Eds. Simone Drake, David Ikard, and Dwan Simmons (Duke University Press) forthcoming in 2019.

I earned a B.S. in Mass Communication/Print Journalism from Emerson College, an M.A. in Popular Culture Studies at Bowling Green State University, and a Ph.D. in American Studies from the University of Maryland College Park. I have taught courses at these three schools and was awarded a Postdoctoral Faculty Fellowship in the Humanities at Syracuse University in 2006 where I worked until 2011.  I served as the Director of Multicultural Student Services at Bucknell University from 2011-2015. In June 2015, I began as the Director of the Popel Shaw Center for Race and Ethnicity at Dickinson College. In fall 2017, I became a Contributing Faculty member in the Department of Music at Dickinson College.