Jann Wenner, who co-founded Rolling Stone magazine in 1967, was kicked off the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation Board of Directors over the weekend. The Rock Hall issued a terse statement announcing the news on Saturday (September 16), writing simply, “Jann Wenner has been removed from the Board of Directors of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation.”
The unanimous decision to vote Wenner off the committee came after his alarming interview with the New York Times in which he made some disparaging comments about Black and female artists. Wenner intended to plug 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. When asked why he didn’t include women or Black artists, Wenner replied, “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. 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 apologized through his publisher, Little, Brown and Company, 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. I totally understand the inflammatory nature and badly chosen words and deeply apologize and accept the consequences.”
Wenner also co-founded the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, which was launched in 1987. He seemed to acknowledge he would face a backlash while speaking to the Times, saying. “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.”
Wenner left Rolling Stone in 2019.