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.
“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.
A representative for Wenner, 77, did not immediately respond for a comment.
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 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.