Associate Professor of Journalism
Emerson College
120 Boylston Street
Boston, Massachusetts 02116
978.212.9388         @rileyrockindex 


Eastman School of Music, University of Rochester
Master of Music, Performance and Literature in Piano, 1985

Oberlin College and Conservatory of Music, Oberlin, Ohio
Bachelor of Arts in English with Honors, 1983
Bachelor of Music in Piano Performance, 1983


Emerson College

Journalist-in-Residence, 2009–2011

Assistant Professor of Journalism, 2011–2016 (video)

Associate Professor of Journalism, 2017
Graduate Program Director, Faculty Assembly Chair

Courses taught: Images of News, Interactive News (undergraduate and graduate levels), The Digital Journalist, Radio Production, Music & Cultural Criticism, Critical Perspectives (online graduate course), Co-Founder and Co-Director, High School Journalism Institute, summers 2010—present

Indiana University

International Fellow, 2008: Beatles immersion class in London and Liverpool.

Brown University

Critic-in-Residence, 2008. Rose Rosengard Subotnik, sponsor


The Riley Rock Index
Founder and editor of this meta-portal to all the best music commentary, news sources, and archives on the web, 2005–present

Blog Riley
Rock critic for award-winning, 2003–2018

Public Interactive
Executive Producer, Public Arts, syndicated cultural pages for NPR web sites, 1999–2002 Executive Producer, music criticism for retail, 1998–1999 Managing Producer Top 5% Database, 1997–1998

Millennium Pop: A Quarterly journal of the Popular Arts
Founding Editor and Publisher 1993-1995

“Good cultural criticism is hard to come by; if millennium pop‘s debut issue is indicative, lean times are looking better… The best new publication of 1994.”

Village Voice Literary Supplement

“It’s the pop-criticism equivalent of a jazz club after the rubes go home, when the musicians play to satisfy only themselves. Somewhere in heaven Lester Bangs is smiling.


The Boston Phoenix
“Cellars by Starlight” club columnist, music critic, feature writer, book reviewer (1988–1991)

The Tab
Arts reporter (1987–88)

Rochester City Newspaper
Weekly alternative pop columnist, neighborhood reporter (1984–85)


Oxford University Press 2019
The first multi-media Beatles textbook, co-authored with Walter Everett, University of Michigan, with instructional videos and Listening Guides.

Hyperion 2011
Virgin UK paperback edition 2012
Translations: Dutch, Polish

Lennon is potently descriptive… Riley already wrote a useful book about Beatle music, Tell Me Why (1988), but the added biographical dimension in Lennon has deepened his insight considerably. His account of the writing and making of “Strawberry Fields Forever,” for example, is a critical tour-de-force…”

James Parker, The New York Times Book Review, October 9, 2011

“Essential for Lennon fans, and one of the most thorough yet accessible rock biographies to appear in recent years.”

Will Hermes, Rolling Stone Magazine, November 24, 2011


St. Martin’s 2004
Picador paperback edition 2005

“Tim Riley’s Fever combines brainy and audacious cultural analysis with genuine musical understanding–a combination rare enough to inspire exhilaration.”

―Tim Page, Pulitzer Prize-winning author

“In his new book, Fever, Tim Riley goes beyond his unique fusion of technical music knowledge and stunningly perceptive emotional exegesis of lyrics to a wider-angle social vision.”

―Ron Rosenbaum, The New York Observer

Hyperion 1992

“Criticism of unprecedented fullness,” Kirkus Reviews

Alfred A. Knopf 1992
Vintage paperback edition 1993
Da Capo 2nd edition 1999

“Delving into Dylan’s first albums, Riley explores such traditional influences as Woody Guthrie and notes Dylan’s disregard for his fans’ musical preferences, as established in his use of both acoustic and electric music on Bringing It All Back Home. Describing Dylan’s distinctive voice as a “barbed yawp'” or a “yelping yodel,” he explains the enigmatic troubador’s early transformation “from aspiring blues acolyte to creative iconoclast to facile cynic” and beyond, and considers the frequent lyrical ambiguity of his songs.”

Publisher’s Weekly

“Can Dylan’s work sustain high scrutiny? Yes, if it’s placed in a particular cultural context. Dylan’s is a hybrid art, as Robert Christgau has observed. Synthesis is the key to its vitality. High and low are one; fishermen hold flowers. The best Dylan critics—e.g., Christgau, Greil Marcus, Tim Riley—situate him in a musical/social tradition that includes, most notably, the blues. But there have always been intellectuals who insisted on yoking Dylan to the fine-art cart.”

Richard Goldstein, The Nation, April 27, 2006

Alfred A. Knopf 1988 
Vintage paperback edition 1989
Da Capo 2nd edition 2002

“Mr. Riley is remarkably attentive. He follows not just lyrics, melodies and chord progressions but the textural elements – essential to understanding rock – that don’t show up in sheet music: bass and drum parts, shifts in instrumentation, vocal inflections. In fact, ”Tell Me Why” works best as program notes for serious listening to the Beatles’ albums; the author shines a spotlight on the songs’ most important details.”

Jon Pareles, The New York Times

“Riley shows that Paul McCartney rarely personalized his songs the way John Lennon did; he had a keener commercial instinct and satisfied pop expectations, while Lennon challenged his audience with lofty ideas like the illusory nature of reality and acute anxiety. Once they became solo artists, their best albums epitomized their strengths as they delineated what a remarkable match of sensibilities the two of them had been. An essential work for all interested parties.”

Publisher’s Weekly

“…But while much of the factual material related in Tell Me Why must be familiar to even the most casual Beatle admirer, the core of the book promises something new – a diligent, thoughtful and occasionally inspired record-by-record account of the Beatles’ development as musicians and songwriters. As readable as Roy Carr and Tony Tyler’s An Illustrated Record (London, 1975) but without the glibness, Tell Me Why takes each song in turn, discussing its place in the context of a particular album and the group’s general musical maturation.”

—Stephen Barnard in Popular Music, Vol. 9, No. 2,
Radio Issue (Apr., 1990), pp. 250-252 (Cambridge University Press)

Music, Words And Voice: A Reader, Edited by Martin Clayton
(Manchester University Press, 2007). “Hey Jude” (essay) in a collection that includes work by Jacques Derrida, Richard Taruskin, Susan McClary, and Roland Barthes.



Here and Now, WBUR Boston, NPR (Syndicated), popular music commentator
On Point with Tom Ashbrook, WBUR Boston, NPR (Syndicated), popular music commentator
Soundcheck with John Schaefer, WNYC, popular music commentator
Studio 360 with Kurt Andersen, WNYC, popular music commentator
Radio Boston, WBUR Boston, NPR popular music commentator
Monitor Radio: syndicated weekly news hour of the Christian Science Monitor, popular music commentator
The World: BBC-WGBH, PRI (Syndicated), world music commentator
Cognoscenti and The ARTery: WBUR BOSTON website, popular music commentator

  • Listening Back: 50 Years Of The Beatles’ White Album.” On Point (November 28, 2018)
  • The Year In Music 2017.” Radio Boston (December 27, 2017)
  • Eight Speakers That Will Convince You To Give Bluetooth a Try.” The Artery (December 14, 2017)
  • Sgt. Pepper at 50: The Beatles Teach Us About Trump.” Cognoscenti (June 1, 2017)
  • Prince: His Royal Badness, Dies at 57.” Radio Boston (April 21, 2016)
  • Remembering Music Icon Chuck Berry.” Radio Boston (March 20, 2017)
  • George Martin: the Fifth Beatle.” On Point (March 11, 2016)
  • Ground Control to David Bowie.” On Point (January 12, 2016)
  • Bill Medley’s Blue-Eyed, ‘Unchained’ Soul.” On Point (January 1, 2016)
  • Insider’s View of Bob Dylan.” On Point (September 17, 2014)
  • The Rock Christmas Canon.” On Point (December 24, 2012)
  • Raphael Saadiq.” On Point  (April 26, 2012)
  • Remembering Springsteen’s Saxman, Clarence Clemons.” On Point (June 23, 2011)
  • John Lennon: A Life and Legacy.” On Point (October 4, 2011)
  • Lennon: Then and Now,” WNYC’s Soundcheck (September 30, 2011)
  • Smackdown: The Beatles vs. The Rolling Stones, WNYC’s Soundcheck (August 31, 2010)
  • This song is brought to you by…” WNYC’s Soundcheck (March 23, 2010)
  • “Steely Dan: Rent Money Tour, Boston.” Here and Now (July 19, 2009).
  • “Leon Fleisher At One With Two.” Preview of Cinemax documentary with interview, Here and Now (August 1, 2007).
  • “Guilty Pleasures.” With Globe critic Joan Anderman, Here and Now (May 2007).
  • “Sly Stone: Funkmeister Triumph.” Box set review, Sly Stone, Here and Now (April 21, 2007).
  • “Long Live Box Sets.” Review of Fats Waller, Bob Wills, Buddy Guy, Gram Parsons, Here and Now (December 1, 2006).
  • “The US vs JOHN LENNON.” Film review, director David Leaf interview, Here and Now (September 26, 2006).
  • “Chopin X-Rays.” Interview, Maurizio Pollini Performs Chopin’s Nocturnes, Here and Now (on DG) (August 23, 2006).
  • “Roots Rock Lives.” CD review, The Bottle Rockets, Deadstring Brothers, Here and Now (July 11, 2006).
  • “Radical C&W.” Dixie Chicks, Merle Haggard transform country politics, Here and Now (May 26, 2005).
  • “Undiscovered Gems.” CD review, Complete Motown Singles, Here and Now (December 12, 2005).
  • “No Direction Home.” TV review, Scorsese’s Dylan, Here and Now (September 26, 2005).
  • “Animals.” Pink Floyd regroup for Live 8, Here and Now (July 1, 2005).
  • “Radical Covers.” Petra Haden’s sings The Who Sell Out, Here and Now (April 29, 2005).
  • “Love Among Rockers.” Valentines and apologies in song, Here and Now(February 14, 2005).
  • “2004 As Meathook.” Year-end list, On Point (January 4, 2005)
  • “Potpourri.” CD reviews, Beatles Capitol box, Fiery Furnaces, Dan Zanes, Here and Now (November 30, 2004).
  • “Not Your Daddy’s Sexual Personae.” Fever: Rock Transforms Gender author appearance, Here and Now (September 13 2004).
  • “Lost War, Won Future.” CD review, Punk’s Revenge, Here and Now (July 5, 2004).
  • “Undermining Phish.” CD review, Cult band without a cause, Here and Now (June 15, 2004).
  • “Cliches Are Back in Style.” CD review, Jack White’s Loretta Lynn, Melissa Auf der Maur, Here and Now (May 11, 2004).
  • “A Little Bit Country.” CD review, Night Train to Nashville’s R&B, Here and Now (March 15, 2004).
  • “Don’t Diminish What We Do.” TV review, Grammy Gab, Here and Now (February 1, 2004).
  • “What Goes Around.” CD review, remastered rock, Here and Now (December 11, 2003).
  • “Let It Be Naked—Not.” CD review, Beatles, Here and Now (November 24, 2003).
  • “R-E-S-P-E-C-T.” CD review, Dolly Parton, Bruce Springsteen, Lefty Frizzell tributes, Here and Now (October 13, 2003)
  • “Rock Minus Fusion/No Limit.” CD review, Jack Johnson, Miles Davis, Here and Now (September 8, 2003).
  • “Exiles Know Best.” CD review, Liz Phair, Amy Rigby, Julianna Hatfield, Here and Now (August 4, 2003).
  • “Do the Mash.” Internet mash-ups, including Danger Mouse’s Black Album, Here and Now (June 30, 2003).
  • “Emotional Compass.” CD review, Rules of Travel, Rosanne Cash, Here and Now (April 21, 2003).
  • “Genre-Busting.” CD review, Country Pop, Here and Now (March 17, 2003).
  • “We Do This Every Year Whether We Like It or Not.” TV review, Grammy humbug, Here and Now (February 10, 2003).
  • “Previous Incarnation.” CD review, Peter Green’s vintage Fleetwood Mac Live 1969Here and Now (January 06, 2003).
  • “Comebacks and Preludes.” CD review, Joni Mitchell, Chrissie Hynde & Sinead O’Connor, Here and Now (December 2, 2002).
  • “Back at the Ranch.” CD review, Mekons, Alison Moorer, Chuck Prophet, Joan Osborne, Beck, Here and Now (October 26, 2002).
  • “Really Big Shoe.” DVD review, Ed Sullivan Rocks, Here and Now (September 23, 2002).
  • “Movie Music.” Movie review, 24-Hr Party People, Here and Now (August 23, 2002).
  • “Rap Is the New Rock.” CD review, Eminem, Nelly, Here and Now (August 12, 2002).
  • “Madison Avenue Rebels.” Essay, Gap TV ads, Here and Now (July 8, 2002).
  • “In a Galaxy Far, Far Away.” CD review, The Wipers Box, Here and Now (June 3, 2002).
  • “Kids These Days.” CD review, The Langley Music Project, Here and Now (April 1, 2002).
  • “Outside Time and Space.” CD review, Mission of Burma, Here and Now (February 25, 2002).
  • “If Bruce Were From Kansas.” CD review, Freedy Johnston, Here and Now (January 7, 2002).
  • “Don’t Even Think.” CD review, Duds: Andrea Bocelli, Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger, Wacko Jacko, Here and Now (December 18, 2001).
  • Remembering George Harrison,” Studio 360, (December 08, 2001).
  • “All Those Years Ago.” Obituary, George Harrison, Here and Now (November 30, 2001).
  • “Eat Your Heart Out Phil Spector.” CD review, Shelby Lynne, Here and Now (October 29, 2001).
  • “Outflanking His Own Persona.” Bob Dylan’s Love and Theft, Here and Now (September 27, 2001).
  • “Bassists Rejoice.” CD review, Bueno Vista Social Club’s Cachaito Lopez, Here and Now (August 13, 2001).


Expert commentator on Beatle remasters, September, 2009


“When America Was Rocked: Elvis Presley on the Ed Sullivan Show 1956,” critic



Pre-Fab Four, “Tune In: The Beatles: All These Years, Volume 1,” by Mark Lewisohn, book review, December 8, 2013


Breaking Bad, Nurse Jackie, and the Complete Inversion of ’60s Drug Culture, August 1, 2013


RADIO SILENCE, independent journal of literature and rock & roll


TRUTHDIG: book reviews

     “Another Side of Bob Dylan (pdf),” Jan 1, 2005, Vol. 79, No. 3/4 (Sep-Dec 2005), p. 8-12, Database: ProQuest Central 2006. (See also: JSTOR)

     “Out of Ear’s Reach”: Visions of Sinby Christopher Ricks (June 21, 2004)

     Review of Invisible Republic by Greil Marcus (October/November, 1997)

     “For the Beatles: Notes on their achievement,” Popular Music / Volume 6 / Issue 03 / October 1987, pp 257-272

PUBLIC ARTS: FINE GRIND syndicated column, 1999-2005

  • “Movie Nation.” Book review, The Whole Equation by David Thomson (January 15, 2005).
  • “Bob Dylan’s Back Pages.” Book review of Chronicles Volume I (Nov. 15, 2004).
  • CD reviews, Courtney Love, Melissa Auf Der Maur, Shelby Lynn (Sept. 20, 2004).
  • “Horowitz Unbound.” Horowitz at Carnegie Hall Sony classical reissue, unedited (Dec. 10, 2003).
  • “Do The Mash.” Digital fusion essay (Aug. 1, 2003).
  • “All Together Not.” Book and video review, the Beatles Anthology (May 12, 2003).
  • “Celluloid Life Stories.” Book review, The New Biographical Dictionary of Film by David Thomson (Jan. 28, 2003).
  • “Techno Lust.” CD review, Sea Change, by Beck (Dec. 9, 2002).
  • “Really Big Shoe.” DVD review, Ed Sullivan’s Rock’n’Roll (Sept. 23, 2002).
  • “Lonesome Day.” CD review, The Rising by Bruce Springsteen (Aug. 6, 2002).
  • “Castaways.” Book review, Castaways Of The Image Planet, by Geoffrey O’Brien (July 22, 2002).
  • “Songs of Everything.” CD review, Songs of Sahm, by the Bottle Rockets (Jan. 2002).
  • “Jim Keltner’s Time is Tight.” Essay on session drummer (Nov. 2001).
  • “Same as the Old Boss.” DVD review, Bruce Springsteen Live in NYC (Oct. 2001).
  • “Not Your Daddy’s Country Sweethearts.” CD review, Shelby Lynne, Alison Krauss, Patty Loveless (Oct. 2001).
  • “Lay Down Your Weary Tune,” CD review, Love and Theft, by Bob Dylan (Sept. 2001).
  • “Radio Sweethearts.” New CDs from Nick Lowe and Elvis Costello (Aug. 2001).
  • “Car Tunes.” Essay on road mixes (Aug. 2001).
  • “Too Much Monkey Business.” Movie review, Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes (Aug. 2001).
  • “Is There Sex After Death?” TV review, HBO’s Six Feet Under (July 2001).
  • “Nuggets II.” Garage-band box set review (May 2001).
  • “Premium Blend Awards.” CD roundup (June 2001).
  • “Hoover’s Greatest Hits.” Book review, James Ellroy’s Cold Six Thousand (May 2001).
  • “Napster-Free At Last.” Digital music frees consumers from labels (May 2001).
  • “Great Pretenders.” CD review, The Band’s Moondog Matinee (May 2001).
  • “Living Proof: The Rev. Bruce Springsteen and His E Street Choir.” DVD review (April 2001).
  • “On the Rebound.” CD review, Charlie Rich’s Behind Closed Doors remaster (May 2001).
  • “Rutles Rule.” DVD review (March 2001).
  • “That’s What Friends Are For.” TV review, Elton’s uneasy Grammy duet with Eminem (March 2001).
  • “Love in Vain.” DVD review, the Rolling Stones’s Gimme Shelter (February 2001).
  • “It’s a Mad World After All: The Same Old Gas Meets a New Medium.” CD-ROM review of the complete Mad Magazine (December 1999).

BLOG RILEY: rock critic for award-winning, 2003-present (250,000 unique hits daily)


KEYNOTE: White Album: An International Symposium

“On Richard Hamilton’s Design”
November 8-11, 2018 
Monmouth University, West Long Branch, NJ

KEYNOTE: Sgt. Pepper Symposium

June 1, 2017June 4, 2017
University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance  
Sponsored by Professor Walter Everett

Cloud Community College, Concordia, Kansas

November 17, 2016

Journalism Educators Association(JEA)/National Scholastic Press Association (NSPA) High School Journalism Convention, “How the Beatles Teach Writing: Sgt Pepper,”

Los Angeles conference, April 16, 2016

Online News AssociationMobile Bootcamp: Shoot, Edit and Publish Video on the Fly,” with Cindy Rodriguez, Chicago, IL.

September 25, 2014

Massachusetts Historical SocietySymphony and Song: Writing Lives in Music” (pdf) moderated by Pulitzer-Prize Winner Megan Marshall, with Jan Swafford and Judith Tick, Boston, MA. October 4, 2012

92Y Tribeca Featured presenter, New York, NY. September 2012

Newton Free Library Featured Author, 16th Annual Spring Fling, Newton, MA. June 2012

Boston Book Festival (streaming audio) Featured Author, Boston, MA. October, 2011 Newburyport Literary Festival Featured Author, Newburyport, MA. April, 2012 Society For Music Theory Plenary Speaker, “Towards a Pop Music Catalog,” Nashville, TN. November 7 & 8, 2008

Skidmore College of Music

Boston University
Guest Lecturer in Professor Jeremy Yudkin’s MU247 Music of the Beatles, Boston, MA. November 2013 and Music of Bob Dylan, Boston, MA. November 2016, October 2018

Northeastern University
Annual Guest Lecturer in Professor Dennis Miller’s Beatles course, Boston, MA. 2010–2016

Beatles 2000: International Cross-Disciplinary Conference Keynote
Drive My Car: Sixties Soulsters Embrace Lennon-McCartney,” Jyväskylä, Finland. June 2000 Excerpted in “Beatles 2000: International Cross-disciplinary Conference, 15-18 June 2000, Jyvaskyla, Finland.” Popular Music 20, no. 1: 117. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed May 29, 2016).


Censorship In The Arts: over 1500 campus lectures and residencies covering 2 Live Crew, Robert Mapplethorpe, culture wars since 1990, including appearances at:

  • Chautauqua Festival, NY
  • Tufts University, MA
  • Oberlin College, OH
  • The Goldring Arts Journalism Program at Syracuse University, NY
  • USC Annenberg / Getty Arts Journalism Program, CA
  • Wellesley College, MA
  • Trinity College, NY
  • Emerson College, MA
  • Carleton College, MN
  • The Eastman School of Music, NY
  • University of Texas, TX
  • University of Utah, UT
  • University of Washington, WA
  • Temple University, PA
  • The New School, NY
  • The Chautauqua Festival, NY
  • Tulane University, LA
  • Vanderbilt University, TN
  • Also “Rock History: The British Invasion.”


  • National Book Critics Association
  • Online Journalism Association
  • The Society for Professional Journalists
  • Journalism Educators Association
  • American Association of University Professors, Emerson College chapter governing council

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