By Mark Kennedy
Jann Wenner, who co-founded Rolling Stone magazine and also was a co-founder of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, has been removed from the hall's board of directors after making comments that were seen as disparaging toward Black and female musicians. He apologized within hours.
“Jann Wenner has been removed from the Board of Directors of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation,” the hall said Saturday, a day after Wenner's comments were published in a New York Times interview.
Wenner created a firestorm doing publicity for his new book “The Masters,” which features interviews with musicians Bob Dylan, Jerry Garcia, Mick Jagger, John Lennon, Bruce Springsteen, Pete Townshend and U2’s Bono — all white and male.
Asked why he didn't interview women or Black musicians, Wenner responded: “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 (Mitchell) was not a philosopher of rock ’n’ roll. She didn’t, in my mind, meet that test,” he told the Times.
"Of Black artists — you know, Stevie Wonder, genius, right? I suppose when you use a word as broad as ‘masters,’ the fault is using that word. Maybe Marvin Gaye, or Curtis Mayfield? I mean, they just didn’t articulate at that level,” Wenner said.
Late Saturday, Wenner apologized through his publisher, Little, Brown and Company, saying: “In my interview with The New York Times I made comments that diminished the contributions, genius and impact of Black and women artists and I apologize wholeheartedly for those remarks."
He added: “I totally understand the inflammatory nature and badly chosen words and deeply apologize and accept the consequences.”
Wenner co-founded Rolling Stone in 1967 and served as its editor or editorial director until 2019. He also co-founded the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, which was launched in 1987.
In the interview, Wenner seemed to acknowledge he would face a backlash. “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."
Last year, Rolling Stone magazine published its 500 Greatest Albums of All Time and ranked Gaye's “What's Going On” No. 1, “Blue” by Mitchell at No. 3, Wonder's “Songs in the Key of Life” at No. 4, “Purple Rain” by Prince and the Revolution at No. 8 and Ms. Lauryn Hill's “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” at No. 10.
Rolling Stone’s niche in magazines was an outgrowth of Wenner’s outsized interests, a mixture of authoritative music and cultural coverage with tough investigative reporting.