Jann Wenner Removed From Rock Hall Board After Comments About Black And Women Musicians
Rolling Stone co-founder Jann Wenner has been removed from the board of the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Foundation, an organization he helped start, after his comments in an interview with The New York Times in which he stated that Black and women musicians were too “inarticulate” to be profiled for his new book of rock star interviews The Masters.
“Jann Wenner has been removed from the Board of Directors of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation,” reads a statement from the organization. As Billboard reports, an emergency conference call took place on Saturday in which Wenner was given a chance to explain himself, and multiple members of the board did not accept what was characterized by a source as a “bad apology.” A vote was held amongst the members of the board that were on the call — which included industry heavy-hitters like Lyor Cohen, Irving Azoff, Doug Morris, and Rob Light — and all voted to remove Wenner save for one no vote cast by music manager Jon Landau.
Following his removal from the board, Wenner issued a public apology through the publisher of his new book The Masters. “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,” he wrote, continuing:
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 its 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.
In Wenner’s interview with the Times, which was published on Friday, he was asked why he did not interview any women or people of color for his book. “it just fell together that way. The people had to meet a couple criteria, but it was just kind of my personal interest and love of them. Insofar as the women, just none of them were as articulate enough on this intellectual level,” he said.
“It’s not that they’re not creative geniuses,” he continued when interviewer David Marchese pushed back. “It’s not that they’re inarticulate, although, go have a deep conversation with Grace Slick or Janis Joplin. You know, Joni was not a philosopher of rock ’n’ roll. 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?” Wenner went on. “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 co-founded Rolling Stone in 1967 and helped run it until he departed in 2019. That same year, he stepped down from his position as the chairman of the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, though he remained a member of the board until now. Last year, he published a memoir called Like A Rolling Stone, followed by the interview collection The Masters, which is set to come out next week.