Jann Wenner, the co-founder of both Rolling Stone magazine and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation, has been removed from the Hall of Fame's Board of Directors after making disparaging comments about Black and female musicians.
This all came about while talking to The New York Times about his new book, The Masters -- which contains archival interviews with Bono, Bob Dylan, Jerry Garcia, Mick Jagger, John Lennon, and Pete Townshend, and a new one with Bruce Springsteen. Reporter David Marchese, who used to work at Rolling Stone, questioned why it focused on seven white men, saying, "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. 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?"
In addition to that, he also revealed in the interview that he allowed many of his interview subjects, including Bono in the book, to edit and review the transcript before it went to press. He said in the case of Bono, he was "looking for grammatical stuff, usage stuff; changing a word here and there, if he’d want to use a different word that’s more precise; maybe something was too intimate and he decides he doesn’t want to put it on the public record. I’m happy to do that with these subjects... These are not meant to be confrontational interviews. These are profiles in a way. If I have to trade the level of trust that is necessary to get this kind of interview, to let people put a few things off the record, nothing of any value, maybe something about their kids or their family or not wanting to put down somebody. I let John Lennon edit his interview, and everything he said in that interview" -- referring to the one he did in 1970 in which he unloaded his public feelings about The Beatles.
"He went through, and he made changes here and there. Basically, it’s interview subjects clarifying what they want to say, making it more precise. Because it’s a long stream of yap and verbiage and you sometimes don’t think through every word. I want them to have the opportunity to say precisely what they meant...
"Look, nothing was ever substantively changed from the original interviews. These are all minor changes that really get to accuracy and readability and all that stuff. Secondly, these were not meant to be confrontational interviews. They were always meant to be cooperative interviews."
And when Marchese responded, "There aren’t two kinds of interviews," Wenner said, "Yes, there are. The kind of interview I wanted to do was to elicit real thinking, not to confront or challenge or get somebody defensive."
At the end of the Times interview, Wenner said, "I wouldn’t mind seeing the written transcript. I’d be curious to look it over," to which Marchese said, "Yeah, right!," leading Wenner to say, "After it’s published. God, forgive me."
The story was picked up everywhere and early Saturday evening the Hall released a statement saying, "Jann Wenner has been removed from the Board of Directors of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation."
In an effort to try and save face, Wenner released a statement Saturday night saying, “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 ‘n’ roll’s impact on my world; they were 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. I totally understand the inflammatory nature of badly chosen words and deeply apologize and accept the consequences.”
Wenner co-founded the Hall of Fame Foundation in 1983. He was inducted as a non-performer in 2004. The Masters, will be published on September 26th.
We reached out to John Sykes, Chairman of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation, who succeeded Wenner in 2020, and he told us he wasn't commenting outside of the statement.
When he took over, Sykes said one of his missions was to be more inclusive of female artists, which has been the case as 10 have been honored through this year's Class that will be inducted in November.
We also reached out to reps for Bono, Dylan, Springsteen, Jagger, and Townshend, as well as Yoko Ono, a close friend of Wenner, on behalf of Lennon, but have not heard back.
The Rock Hall comes under a yearly attack for artists that many rock fans feel should be nominated. This is not going to help its image.
Wenner has long been blamed for keeping numerous artists out of the Hall. Among the acts associated with that claim are KISS, Rush and Foreigner. KISS and Rush finally got in due in large part to public pressure, but former Foreigner singer Lou Gramm says they've been blacklisted due to Wenner having words with Foreigner founder and guitarist Mick Jones.
Source: AP and Premiere