Rolling Stone magazine co-founder Jann Wenner has been removed from the board of directors of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation, following sexist and racist remarks he made in a New York Times interview to promote his book “The Masters.”
The book was a compilation of interviews with rock legends including Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger, John Lennon, Bruce Springsteen and Bono — all white men.
The Times asked why the book did not contain any interviews with women or people of color.
Regarding women, Mr. Wenner said, “Just none of them were as articulate enough on this intellectual level,” and remarked that Joni Mitchell “was not a philosopher of rock ’n’ roll.”
“Of Black artists — you know, Stevie Wonder, genius, right?” he said. “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.”NYT
The following day the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation issued a brief statement.
“Jann Wenner has been removed from the board of directors of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation,” the statement said.
By Saturday evening Wenner’s publisher issued an apology on behalf of Wenner.
“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,” he continued, “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.”
Wenner, 77, founded Rolling Stone in 1967 with the music critic Ralph J. Gleason, who died in 1975. Wenner completed the sale of the magazine in 2020.
Wenner was also instrumental in the roots of the Rock Hall, founded in 1983, which has been criticized for the relative few women and minority artists who have been inducted over the years.