Jann Wenner, founder of Rolling Stone magazine, has come under fire after making some questionable remarks about female and black artists during an interview. His new book, titled “The Masters,” features a collection of interviews with several musical legends such as Bob Dylan, Jerry Garcia, Bono, Mick Jagger, John Lennon, Bruce Springsteen, and Pete Townshend.
What is missing from the book are female and black artists who contributed to the evolution of American music. But what was even more noteworthy was his defense of excluding artists from this demographic.
During a promotional interview with The New York Times, Wenner was asked about the lack of female and black artists in his book.
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.
Wenner went on to say that perhaps he should have included black and female artists in his book to avoid criticism.
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.”
It appears it’s too late for a mea culpa. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame has kicked him out, saying in a statement Saturday that Wenner “has been removed from the Board of Directors of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation.”
The Rolling Stone founder issued an apology to The Hollywood Reporter later in the day.
“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 said in a statement given to The Hollywood Reporter. “The Masters is a collection of interviews I’ve done over the years that seemed to me to best represent an idea of rock ‘n’ roll’s impact on my world; they were not meant to represent the whole of music and it’s [sic] 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.”
Rolling Stone is a publication that primarily covers news related to the music industry, but it also functions as a left-wing news outlet. It recently attacked country singer Oliver Anthony for writing a song that appealed to “right-wing influencers.” Ironically, the magazine’s list of 500 Greatest Albums of All Time includes albums by Prince, Stevie Wonder, Joni Mitchell, Marvin Gaye, Lauryn Hill, and several other black and female artists.