On Saturday (Sept. 16), the board of directors for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame opted to remove one of its oldest members, 77-year-old co-founder and former Chairman Jann Wenner, for inappropriate comments that he made during an interview with The New York Times.
Wenner, also the co-founder of Rolling Stone magazine, explained to David Marchese with the NYT that he didn’t interview any Black artists or women for his new rock ‘n’ roll book, “The Masters,” stating, “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,” he continued.
Wenner called the people he interviewed “philosophers” of rock. Yet, he focused entirely on white male musicians, such as Bob Dylan, Bono, Jerry Garcia, Mick Jagger, Bruce Springsteen and Pete Townshend.
The author also acknowledged that he might face criticism about his selection. “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 continued.
During an “emergency conference call,” he reportedly acknowledged his prior statements and even issued an apology through the publisher of his new book:
“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,” it read.
Yet, the other board members reportedly didn’t consider Wenner sincere. All but one member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Board of Directors, former Rolling Stone writer, critic and music manager John Landau, voted to expel Wenner.