Rolling Stone Mag. Co-Founder Dropped From Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame Board For ‘Racist, Sexist Comments’



Co-founder of Rolling Stone magazine Jann Wenner visits SiriusXM’s ‘The Howard Stern Show’ at SiriusXM Studios. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for SiriusXM)

By Brooke Mallory
6:42 PM – Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Rolling Stone Magazine’s original co-founder, Jann Wenner, has been expelled from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s board of directors as a result of his divisive remarks regarding Black and female performers in an interview that was released last week.

“Jann Wenner has been removed from the Board of Directors of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation,” the hall said on Saturday, which was one day after Wenner’s comments were published in a New York Times (NYT) interview.  

Wenner’s new book, “The Masters: Conversations with Dylan, Lennon, Jagger, Townshend, Garcia, Bono, and Springsteen,” was highlighted in the NYT interview. It features discussions with notable music legends from a number of classic bands.

Wenner, the co-founder of Rolling Stone and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, said that the candidates for his interviews had to “meet a couple criteria, but it was just kind of my personal interest and love of them.”

When Wenner was questioned about female artists, such as Joni Mitchell, he responded by saying, “It’s not that they’re not creative geniuses… although, go have a deep conversation with Grace Slick or Janis Joplin… Please, be my guest,” Wenner continued. “You know, Joni was not a philosopher of rock ‘n’ roll. She didn’t, in my mind, meet that test.”

“Insofar as the women, just none of them were as articulate enough on this intellectual level,” Wenner continued.

“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.”

The NYT outlet also quoted Wenner as 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.”

“Which, I get it. I had the chance to do that,” Wenner said. “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.”

In a statement given to The Hollywood Reporter on Saturday, Wenner expressed regret for the comments, although many online users pointed out that he seemed to be more concerned with the negative backlash that he was receiving than actually expressing remorse for his opinions.

“Hmmm, a privileged white gay man talking negatively about women and POC claiming that they aren’t intellectual or articulate enough for him, how original..” one user on social media said.

Wenner went on to explain that the interviews for his book were not intended to represent “the whole of music,” but rather to “reflect the high points” of his career. These interviews included those that, in his opinion, “illustrated the breadth and experience in that career.”

“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 of badly chosen words and deeply apologize and accept the consequences,” he said, apologizing.

Wenner co-founded the Cleveland, Ohio, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum and has financed startups in the digital media space, including progressive sites like BuzzFeed and Vice Media. He also served as the co-founder and editorial director of Rolling Stone magazine from 1967 until 2019.