The co-founder of Rolling Stone magazine has been fired from the board of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame – a museum he helped create – over inflammatory comments that many have labeled sexist and racist.
Jann Wenner sparked controversy when he suggested that no female or black artist was “eloquent” enough to be included in his new book on the “philosophers of rock” – a book that profiles seven white male artists.
“To the extent that none of the women were eloquent enough at this intellectual level… It’s not that they’re not creative geniuses,” Wenner suggested.
The 77 year old, WHO earlier made headlines when he came out as gay after decades of marriage, was questioned by the New York Times about the lack of diversity in the lineup of musicians profiled in his latest book, titled “The Masters.”
The subjects – Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Mick Jagger, Pete Townshend, Jerry Garcia, Bono and Bruce Springsteen – are all white men, who Wenner emphasized could “really articulate” their philosophy.
Wenner said that no woman was “articulate enough” to be counted in the same number, and that black artists like Marvin Gaye and Curtis Mayfield “couldn’t articulate at that level either.”
Jan Wenner, co-founder of Rolling Stone magazine, has been suspended from the board of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for inflammatory comments that many have labeled sexist and racist. (Image: Wenner speaking at the 32nd Annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony in 2017)
Wenner (right) sparked controversy when he suggested that no female or black artist was “eloquent” enough to be included in his new book on the “philosophers of rock” – which profiles seven white male artists, including Bob Dylan
“As far as the women go, none of them were articulate enough,” Wenner told the New York Times as he explained why no female or black artists were profiled in his new book on the “philosophers of rock.” (Image: Wenner with Stevie Nicks and Bette Midler in 2007)
He apologized for his comments shortly afterwards, but not before he was quick dismissed from the board of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame – which he co-founded in 1987 and served as chairman until 2020.
“Jann Wenner has been removed from the board of directors of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation,” said a brief statement from the foundation, according to industry magazine Variety.
Wenner suggested that you couldn’t have a “deep conversation” with artist Grace Slick
In his Times interview, Wenner said his all-male selection was “not intentional” but “just fell together that way.”
“The people had to meet some criteria, but it was just kind of my personal interest and love for them,” he said.
“As for the women, none of them were articulate enough at this intellectual level… It’s not that they aren’t creative geniuses.
‘It’s not that they’re unclear, but have a deep conversation with Grace Slick or Janis Joplin. Please be my guest.
“You know, Joni (Mitchell) wasn’t a rock ‘n’ roll philosopher. I don’t think she passed that test.
‘Not because of her work, not because of other interviews she did. The people I interviewed were the kind of rock philosophers.’
“From black artists – you know, Stevie Wonder, brilliant, right? I suppose when you use a word as broad as ‘masters’, the mistake is the use of that word.
“Maybe Marvin Gaye, or Curtis Mayfield? I mean, they just weren’t articulating at that level.”
Co-founder and publisher of Rolling Stone magazine Wenner interviews legendary rock guitarist, singer and songwriter Jimi Hendrix in San Francisco in 1968
Paul McCartney, Wenner and Ringo Starr attend the 30th Annual Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Induction Ceremony at Public Hall on April 18, 2015
Sheryl Crow, Wenner, John Sykes, Don Henley and former Vice President Al Gore
Wenner even acknowledged that his comments would irritate some and suggested that he should have included a token black or female artist in his book.
“Maybe, just for the sake of public relations, I should have looked for a black and a female artist to include here, who wasn’t up to the same historical standard, just to deflect this kind of criticism,” said Wenner.
His book is billed as “a remarkable collection of new and collected interviews with the biggest rock stars and cultural icons of our time.”
He apologized through his publisher, Little, Brown and Company, hours after the interview was published.
“In my interview with The New York Times, I made comments that diminished the contributions, genius and impact of Black and female artists, and I sincerely apologize for those comments,” Wenner said.
“I fully understand the inflammatory nature and poorly chosen words, I deeply apologize and accept the consequences.”
Wenner previously made headlines for divorcing his wife of 43 years to start his new life as a gay man.
Paul McCartney and Wenner attend the 30th Annual Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Induction Ceremony at the Public Hall on April 18, 2015 in Cleveland
Yoko Ono, Wenner and Sean Lennon at the 19th annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony in New York City in 2004
Jann and Jane Wenner’s split in 2011 led to speculation that it could have the domino effect of the collapse of Wenner Media’s publishing empire.
But Jane reportedly secured a large sum of money while Wenner was free to marry his boyfriend, for whom he left her in 1995: Calvin Klein model and designer Matt Nye.
Wenner is co-founder Rolling Stone magazine in 1967, and in subsequent decades, celebrated a host of rock legends in its pages in lengthy interviews.
Rolling Stone became the leading music magazine of its day, later expanding into cultural affairs, conducting interviews with top politicians and fostering a style of “new journalism” that brought techniques of fiction writing into story reporting.
Wenner sold a controlling stake in Rolling Stone magazine in 2017 in a deal that valued the publication at a reported $110 million.