Rolling Stone co-founder Jann Wenner has been ousted from his position on the Board of Directors of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation. The news was announced on Saturday, following an interview with The New York Times, where he made widely criticized comments about Black and female musicians, alongside revealing other questionable editorial decisions.
Wenner is promoting his book, The Masters, which features interviews with influential artists, such as Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger, Pete Townshend, John Lennon, and Bruce Springsteen — none of the artists featured are female or non-white. In the Times interview with Wenner that published on Friday, he said that Black and also female musicians “didn’t articulate at the level” of the white male musicians in his tome.
On Saturday, a rep from the Rock Hall sent a statement to Rolling Stone: “Jann Wenner has been removed from the Board of Directors of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation.” No explanation was given. A rep for the Rock Hall did not immediately return Rolling Stone’s request for further comment.
Wenner co-founded the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which opened in 1987. He served as the chairmen until 2020. Wenner is not part of the board of the affiliated museum.
In the interview with the Times’ David Marchese, Wenner was asked about the exclusion of people of color or female artists.
“It’s not that they’re not creative geniuses. 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,” Wenner said. “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? 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.
“I mean, look at what Pete Townshend was writing about, or Jagger, or any of them,” he continued. “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.”
During the interview, he considered how he may have approached the book differently: “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. Maybe Otis Redding, had he lived, would have been the guy.”
Beyond the controversial comments about the artists that were and were not featured in The Masters, he also revealed during the interview that he allowed interview subjects to edit transcripts of their interviews prior to publication, which is not an accepted editorial practice and Rolling Stone does not allow interviewees to approve transcripts or final copy.
Wenner founded Rolling Stone in 1967 and remained its editor or editorial director until 2019. His son, Gus Wenner, is the CEO of the magazine. Jann Wenner is an editorial director of Wenner Media, of which PMC has a controlling interest. PMC is the parent company of Rolling Stone.