The co-founder of Rolling Stone magazine was kicked off the board of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame — a museum he helped create — because of inflammatory comments that many called sexist and racist.
Jann Wenner created controversy when he suggested that no female or black artists were “articulate” enough to be included in his new book on “philosophers of rock” – a book that features seven white male artists.
“As far as the women were concerned, none of them were as articulate enough on that intellectual level…It’s not that they weren’t creative geniuses,” Wenner suggested.
The 77-year-old man, WHO previously made headlines when he came out as gay after decades of marriage, was asked by the New York Times about the lack of diversity in the lineup of musicians featured 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 said could “really express” their philosophies.
Wenner said no woman was “articulate enough” to be counted in the same number, and that black artists like Marvin Gaye and Curtis Mayfield “just weren’t expressing themselves at that level” either.
Jan Wenner, co-founder of Rolling Stone magazine, was kicked off the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame board over inflammatory comments that many called sexist and racist. (Pictured: Wenner speaking at the 32nd Annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony in 2017)
Wenner (right) created controversy when he suggested that no female or black artists were “articulate” enough to be included in his new book on the “philosophers of rock” – which features seven white male artists, including Bob Dylan.
“When it came to women, none of them were as articulate as they were,” Wenner told the New York Times while explaining why no female or black artists were featured in his new book about “philosophers of rock”. (Pictured: Wenner with Stevie Nicks and Bette Midler in 2007)
He apologized for his remarks shortly afterward, but not before quickly excluded from the board of directors of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame – which he co-founded in 1987 and served as president 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 the trade journal Variety.
Wenner suggested you couldn’t have a ‘deep conversation’ with artist Grace Slick
In his Times interview, Wenner said his all-male selection was “not deliberate” but “just happened that way.”
“People had to meet a few criteria, but it was just my personal interest and love for them,” he said.
“As far as the women were concerned, none of them were as articulate enough on that intellectual level… It’s not that they weren’t creative geniuses.
“It’s not that they’re inarticulate – but go have an in-depth conversation with Grace Slick or Janis Joplin. Please be my guest.
“You know, Joni (Mitchell) was not a rock ‘n’ roll philosopher. In my opinion, she did not meet this test.
“Neither by her work, nor by the other interviews she has done. The people I interviewed were the kind of rock philosophers.
“Black artists – you know, Stevie Wonder, a genius, right? I guess 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 haven’t expressed themselves at that level.
Wenner, co-founder and publisher of Rolling Stone magazine, 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 remarks would irritate some and suggested that he should have included a token black or female artist in his book.
“Just for PR reasons, maybe I should have found a black artist and a woman to include here who didn’t meet the same historical standards, just to avoid that kind of criticism,” Wenner said.
His book was 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 remarks,” Wenner said.
“I completely 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 begin his new life as a gay man.
Paul McCartney and Wenner attend the 30th annual Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame induction ceremony at 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 in 2004
Jann and Jane Wenner’s separation in 2011 sparked speculation that it could have the effect of breaking up the Wenner Media publishing empire.
But Jane reportedly got a large sum of money while Wenner was free to marry her boyfriend, for whom he left her in 1995, model and Calvin Klein designer Matt Nye.
Wenner co-founded In Rolling Stone magazine in 1967, and over the following decades, he celebrated a multitude of rock legends in extensive interviews in its pages.
Rolling Stone became the leading music magazine of its era, later expanding into cultural affairs, conducting interviews with senior politicians, and fostering a style of “new journalism” that introduced the techniques of fiction writing into reporting of stories.
Wenner sold a majority stake in Rolling Stone magazine in 2017 in a deal valuing the publication at $110 million.