Rolling Stone co-founder defends lack of diversity in his book, gets booted off Rock Hall of Fame board

The co-founder of Rolling Stone magazine, Jann Wenner, has been kicked off the board of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation, just one day after he dared to defend his diversity-lacking selection of seven white Rock legends to include in his new book, “The Masters.”

David Marchese, a former editor for Rolling Stone, interviewed Wenner for a piece that was published in the New York Times on Friday.

In “The Masters,” Wenner included conversations with, among others, Jerry Garcia, Mick Jagger, Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Bruce Springsteen, and Bono.

Not a single female or black artist was included — a fact that caused quite a controversy.

In what he described as a “history-will-speak kind of question,” Marchese pressed Wenner for an explanation.

“In the introduction, you acknowledge that performers of color and women performers are just not in your zeitgeist. Which to my mind is not plausible for Jann Wenner,” Marchese said. “Janis Joplin, Joni Mitchell, Stevie Nicks, Stevie Wonder, the list keeps going — not in your zeitgeist? What do you think is the deeper explanation for why you interviewed the subjects you interviewed and not other subjects?”

“When I was referring to the zeitgeist, I was referring to Black performers, not to the female performers, OK? Just to get that accurate,” Wenner replied.

“The selection was not a deliberate selection,” he continued. “It was kind of intuitive over the years; it just fell together that way. 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.”

“Oh, stop it,” Marchese shot back. “You’re telling me Joni Mitchell is not articulate enough on an intellectual level?”

“It’s not that they’re not creative geniuses,” Wenner said. “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 ’n’ 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.”

“Of Black artists — you know, Stevie Wonder, genius, right?” he said. “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.”

Menner went on to say that he “read interviews” with the excluded icons and listened to their music.

“I mean, look at what Pete Townshend was writing about, or Jagger, or any of them,” he said. “They were deep things about a particular generation, a particular spirit and a particular attitude about rock ’n’ roll. Not that the others weren’t, but these were the ones that could really articulate it.”

“The selection was intuitive. It was what I was interested in,” Menner said. “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. Which, I get it. I had a chance to do that. Maybe I’m old-fashioned and I don’t give a [expletive] or whatever.”

“I wish in retrospect I could have interviewed Marvin Gaye. Maybe he’d have been the guy,” he added. “Maybe Otis Redding, had he lived, would have been the guy.”

Wenner’s defense of his choices went over like… well, like a “Led Zeppelin.”

A day after the article was published, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame had this to say: “Jann Wenner has been removed from the Board of Directors of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation.”

On Saturday night, Wenner issued an apology, according to 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,” he said, “and I apologize wholeheartedly for those remarks.”

His new book, Wenner said, was “not meant to represent the whole of music and it’s 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,” Wenner stated. “I totally understand the inflammatory nature of badly chosen words and deeply apologize and accept the consequences.”


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