Lauren Onkey

Lauren Onkey is the Senior Director of NPR Music in Washington, DC. In this role, she leads NPR Music's team of journalists, critics, video, and podcast makers, and works with NPR's newsroom and robust Member station network to expand the impact of NPR Music and continue positioning public radio as an essential force in music.

Prior to joining NPR, she was the inaugural Dean and Chair of the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Humanities Center at Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland, Ohio, where she created a program that provided civic engagement opportunities for students. She served as Vice President of Education and Public Programming at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum from 2008-2015, developing and managing the museum's award-winning education and community programs. She was the executive producer of the museum's Annual Music Masters series and oversaw the Rock Hall's Library and Archives.

Onkey spent fourteen years teaching literature and cultural studies at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, specializing in postcolonial literature and popular music studies. She is the author of Blackness and Transatlantic Irish Identity: Celtic Soul Brothers (Routledge 2009), an interdisciplinary study of the relationship between Irish and African-American heritage. Over the course of her career she has published many articles in literary studies, popular music studies, women's studies, and pedagogy. Onkey holds doctoral and master's degrees in English from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and a bachelor's degree in English and Government from the College of William & Mary.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Bandcamp playlist at the bottom of the page.


Mavis Staples turns 80 this summer. She's a respected elder of soul and gospel music, a beloved collaborator with rock musicians, and a living embodiment of gospel music's place in the civil rights movement. But she's no static symbol of the past.

At the start of Day 2 at this year's Newport Folk Festival, Curtis Harding lit up the Fort stage with what he calls "slop 'n' soul," a soul-rock hybrid that woke up the crowd. Based in Atlanta, Harding has deep experience as a singer, songwriter and guitarist who uses the conventions of soul to look forward, not back. His powerful set included tracks from his two albums: the great Face Your Fear (one of NPR Music's 10 Best R&B Albums of 2017) and Soul Power, his 2014 debut.

On Saturday night, Bruce Springsteen will perform, for the 236th and final night, Springsteen on Broadway, his intensely personal one-man show at the intimate, 975-seat Walter Kerr Theatre. Just a couple of hours after that, Netflix will make public a document of the show, filmed during a July performance.

Though her career carried her from the Baptist churches of Detroit to a life of platinum plaques and diamond-drizzled furs, Aretha Franklin's voice never lost its flavor. Her ability to rouse emotion is a talent few other artists have ever been able to touch. And her piano-playing prowess, which she developed in church, was unmatched. It's the reason she earned the title of Queen of Soul in the 1960s.