'Rolling Stone' Co-Founder Removed from Rock Hall Board for Comments on Black, Female Musicians

Jann Wenner has been widely criticized for his racist and sexist commentary in a 'New York Times' interview published Friday

BY Megan LaPierrePublished Sep 18, 2023

American businessman Jann Wenner co-founded Rolling Stone magazine with late music critic Ralph J. Gleason all the way back in 1967. The one who is still alive has now been removed from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's Board of Directors for the comments on Black and female musicians — which have widely been deemed racist and sexist — he made in a recent interview with The New York Times.

"Jann Wenner has been removed from the board of directors of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation," the organization said in a statement acquired by The New York Times, which claimed that Rock Hall President and Chief Executive Joel Peresman declined to comment further when they reached out to him over the phone.

Published on Friday (September 15), Wenner's conversation with journalist David Marchese mainly revolved around the businessman's already questionably titled new book, The Masters, wherein he compiles conversations with the seven musicians he calls "the philosophers of rock": Bob Dylan, Jerry Garcia, Mick Jagger, John Lennon, Bruce Springsteen, Pete Townshend and U2's Bono.

When asked about why his list of rock greats glaringly only highlights white men, Wenner said the decision was "intuitive." He went on to say that there wasn't a single female artist he encountered in his Rolling Stone tenure that was "articulate enough" to be included.

"It's not that they're not creative geniuses," Wenner explained. "It's not that they're inarticulate, although, go have a deep conversation with Grace Slick or Janis Joplin. Please, be my guest."

Marchese — a former online editor at Rolling Stone — pressed the issue, mentioning Joni Mitchell. "You know, Joni was not a philosopher of rock and roll," the co-founder responded. "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."

He continued, "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."

After the announcement of Wenner's removal from the Rock Hall's Board of Directors, he issued an apology statement through The Hollywood Reporter:

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. The Masters is a collection of interviews I've done over the years that seemed to me to best represent an idea of rock and roll's impact on my world; they were not meant to represent the whole of music and [its] diverse and important originators but to reflect the high points of my career and interviews I felt illustrated the breadth and experience in that career. They don't reflect my appreciation and admiration for myriad totemic, world-changing artists whose music and ideas I revere and will celebrate and promote as long as I live. I totally understand the inflammatory nature of badly chosen words and deeply apologize and accept the consequences.

Wenner went on to add that he perhaps could have included a Black musician or a woman in his book "just for public relations sake" to avoid criticism.

Rolling Stone issued a statement clarifying that Wenner has not been involved in the publication's operations since 2019, and that his statements "do not represent the values and practices of today's Rolling Stone."

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