Rolling Stone Throws Its Founder Jann Wenner Under the Bus

Larry Busacca
Larry Busacca

Days after Rolling Stone’s co-founder Jann Wenner was removed from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation’s board following backlash over his disparaging remarks about Black and women songwriters, the famed magazine threw Wenner firmly under the bus.

“Jann Wenner’s recent statement to the New York Times do not represent the value and practices of today’s Rolling Stone,” the publication wrote in a statement issued Monday. “Jann Wenner has not been directly involved in our operations since 2019.”

After noting that Wenner hadn’t had an active role in the magazine for years, Rolling Stone added that its purpose since the former owner’s departure “has been to tell stories that reflect the diversity of voices and experiences that shape our world.” The statement concluded by stating that “the understanding that music above all can bring us together, not divide us” is at the magazine’s core.

While promoting his upcoming book, The Masters, a collection of interviews with legendary rock artists, the 77-year-old music writer brought on swift backlash when he justified his decision not to include any women or Black artists among those he considered the greatest songwriters in rock history.

“The people had to meet a couple criteria, but it was just kind of my personal interest and love of them,” he told the Times in a candid interview. “Insofar as the women, just none of them were as articulate enough on this intellectual level.”

Wenner added: “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.”

He went on to suggest that he should have probably added a female artist or person of color to his book—if only to avoid any potential PR headaches.

“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 declared. “Maybe I’m old-fashioned and I don’t give a (expletive) or whatever. I wish in retrospect I could have interviewed Marvin Gaye. Maybe he’d have been the guy. Maybe Otis Redding, had he lived, would have been the guy.”

Wenner, who was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2004 and co-founded the foundation, was booted from the board the day after the Times interview was published. “Jann Wenner has been removed from the Board of Directors of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation,” the board said in a short statement.

Following his ouster, and in an apparent attempt to douse the firestorm of criticism, Wenner issued a mea culpa over his comments.

“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 said through a spokesperson.

“‘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,” Wenner continued. “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.”

According to Semafor’s Maxwell Tani, Rolling Stone editor-in-chief Noah Shachtman—who previously edited The Daily Beast—addressed Wenner’s comments in a meeting on Friday, telling staff that the magazine’s founder “said several things which do not reflect the values or editorial practices of today’s Rolling Stone.”

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