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Stephen R. Johnson

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Stephen R. Johnson
Johnson holding his MTV "Moonman" awards.
Born(1952-07-12)July 12, 1952
Paola, Kansas, United States
DiedJanuary 26, 2015(2015-01-26) (aged 62)
  • Director
  • painter
  • writer

Stephen Russell Johnson (July 12, 1952 – January 26, 2015) was an American music video director, television director, animator, painter, and writer.[1] Johnson got his start directing a music video for the song "Girls Like You"[2] by Combonation, which features a young Robin Wright, before moving on to directing videos for popular artists. Johnson directed three music videos for Peter Gabriel: "Big Time",[3] "Steam",[3] and "Sledgehammer".[4] "Sledgehammer" has the distinction of winning nine MTV Video Music Awards, which remains unsurpassed.[5][6] In addition, Johnson directed the videos for "Road to Nowhere" by Talking Heads,[7] and "The Bug"[8] and "Walk of Life"[9] by Dire Straits.

In addition to directing music videos, Johnson was known for directing all thirteen episodes of the first season of Pee-wee's Playhouse,[1] for which he was nominated for a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Directing in Children's Programming.[10] He also spearheaded the creation of the short film Universal Declaration of Human Rights for Amnesty International, based on the thirty articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights created by the United Nations.[11] The film is composed of animated interpretations of the articles from forty-two different animators.[12]

Johnson was born on July 12, 1952, in Paola, Kansas, the son of Russell and Lena Wheeler Johnson. He attended high school in Pleasanton, Kansas. He then attended college at Kansas University and the University of Southern California.[13] At USC he made an award-winning movie using stop-motion techniques - as did many of his music videos.[14]

Johnson died at the age of 62 on January 26, 2015, in Fort Scott, Kansas, from cardiac complications.[1][13][15]


  1. ^ a b c "The Dead Rock Stars Club - January to June 2015". Retrieved 13 February 2015.
  2. ^ Video on YouTube
  3. ^ a b Video on YouTube
  4. ^ Video on YouTube
  5. ^ "Peter Gabriel, 'Sledgehammer' (1986) - The 30 All-TIME Best Music Videos - TIME.com". TIME.com. 28 July 2011. Retrieved 13 February 2015.
  6. ^ Megan Buerger (28 March 2013). "The Next Musical Frontier". WSJ. Retrieved 13 February 2015.
  7. ^ Video on YouTube
  8. ^ Video on YouTube
  9. ^ Video on YouTube
  10. ^ "Daytime Emmy". Imdb.com. Retrieved 13 February 2015.
  11. ^ "UDHR film - Amnesty International". Amnesty.org. 11 March 2010. Retrieved 13 February 2015.
  12. ^ Solomon, Charles (5 September 1988). "World Animators Make a Film for Human Rights". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 13 February 2015.
  13. ^ a b "Obituary for Stephen Russell Johnson". Cheney-Witt Funeral Chapel. Retrieved 2018-02-18.
  14. ^ Tannenbaum, Rob; Marks, Craig (2011-10-27). I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution. Penguin. ISBN 9781101526415.
  15. ^ "Stephen R. Johnson's Obituary on New York Times". New York Times. 2015-02-03. Retrieved 2018-02-19.

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