Rock Hall Boots Jann Wenner After Newspaper Interview

'Rolling Stone' founder's comments about Black and female musicians are slammed
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 17, 2023 12:01 AM CDT
Rock Hall Boots Jann Wenner After Newspaper Interview
Jann Wenner discusses his new book "Like a Rolling Stone: A Memoir," at 92nd Street Y, Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2022, in New York.   (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)

Rolling Stone magazine founder Jann Wenner has been swiftly kicked off the board of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for comments he made about Black and female musicians in a newspaper interview, reports Variety. Wenner, 77, is actually a co-founder of the rock hall of fame, a sign of how badly his remarks went over. The controversy began when Wenner spoke to the New York Times to plug his new book, The Masters, which features Wenner's interviews of music legends Bob Dylan, Jerry Garcia, Mick Jagger, John Lennon, Bruce Springsteen, Pete Townshend, and Bono, per the AP. All seven are white men, and the Times' David Marchese grilled Wenner about why he didn't choose any Black performers or women.

  • Articulate: "The people had to meet a couple criteria, but it was just kind of my personal interest and love of them. Insofar as the women, just none of them were as articulate enough on this intellectual level." An incredulous Marchese found the last line absurd, citing Joni Mitchell as an example, and gave Wenner a chance to rephrase.
  • Women: "It's not that they're not creative geniuses," Wenner said of female artists. "It's not that they're inarticulate, although, go have a deep conversation with Grace Slick or Janis Joplin. Please, be my guest. You know, Joni was not a philosopher of rock and roll. She didn't, in my mind, meet that test. Not by her work, not by other interviews she did. The people I interviewed were the kind of philosophers of rock."
  • Black performers: "Of Black artists—you know, Stevie Wonder, genius, right? I suppose when you use a word as broad as 'masters' (a reference to his book title), the fault is using that word. Maybe Marvin Gaye, or Curtis Mayfield? I mean, they just didn't articulate at that level."
  • Intuitive: Wenner said his list was "intuitive," and he seemed to acknowledge that he'd face blowback. "You know, just for public relations sake, maybe I should have gone and found one Black and one woman artist to include here that didn't measure up to that same historical standard, just to avert this kind of criticism. .. Maybe I'm old-fashioned and I don't give a [expletive] or whatever." He added that Marvin Gaye or Otis Redding might have fit the bill.

Only one day after the interview appeared, and amid a social media outcry, the rock hall acted. "Jann Wenner has been removed from the Board of Directors of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation," reads the terse statement in full, per the Hollywood Reporter. Neither the hall nor Wenner has provided additional comment on the controversy. (More Jann Wenner stories.)

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