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Jann Wenner removed from Rock & Roll Hall of Fame board after interview

The Rolling Stone co-founder's remarks to The New York Times about why he didn't include interviews with Black or women artists in his book "The Masters" have been widely criticized.
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The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation removed Rolling Stone magazine co-founder Jann Wenner from its board of directors, the organization said Saturday.

The Rock & Roll Hall referred reporters to a publicity firm that confirmed in an emailed statement Wenner's removal from the board of the organization he helped found in 1983.

The news comes one day after The New York Times published an interview with Wenner regarding his forthcoming book, “The Masters,” which contains interviews with musicians — all white men — including Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger, John Lennon, Bruce Springsteen and Bono. Wenner was asked why the book did not include interviews with women or people of color.

"Just none of them were as articulate enough on this intellectual level," Wenner is quoted as saying about the women of rock.

Jann Wenner discusses his book "Like a Rolling Stone: A Memoir," on Sept. 13, 2022, in New York.
Jann Wenner discusses his book "Like a Rolling Stone: A Memoir," in New York on Wednesday. Evan Agostini / Invision/AP, File

In the interview he expressed similar thoughts regarding Black rock artists, some of whom created the music and culture Wenner reflected upon and profited from with Rolling Stone.

“Of Black artists — you know, Stevie Wonder, genius, right?” Wenner said, according to the interview. “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 said in the interview that his selection of musicians for the book was “intuitive” and “what I was interested in,” and acknowledged that there might be criticism of his choice.

“You know, 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,” he said in the interview. “Which, I get it. I had a chance to do that.”

On Saturday night, Wenner released a statement apologizing for 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.

The author said the forthcoming book, was "not meant to represent the whole of music and it’s 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 said he has an admiration for “world-changing artists” not represented in the book whom he “will celebrate and promote as long as I live.”

His publisher, Little, Brown and Company, did not respond to a request seeking comment Saturday night.

Jann Wenner
Jann Wenner in 2017.Nathan Congleton / NBCUniversal

Wenner's remarks in The New York Times interview have been widely criticized.

Evelyn McDonnell, a Loyola Marymount University journalism professor and expert on music, gender and politics, said on Facebook that Wenner expressed sexism and racism for decades that underly many “false ‘master’ narratives about music history.”

She said such exclusion inspired her to curate and edit the book “Rock She Wrote” in 1995 with NPR pop critic Ann Powers, report on the Hall of Fame's gender inequity and edit the book “Women Who Rock.”

Author Dawnie Walton called Wenner's quoted words "enraging, disgusting, offensive."

Craig Seymour, who identifies himself as a “Black Gay Music Critic,” said on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, that the popular music industry includes "an oppressive system of value that Rolling Stone helped create and perpetuate."

Rolling Stone was well-known for initially snubbing waves of music, from hip-hop to electronic dance music, that may have existed outside its vision of rock 'n' roll culture — a vision usually dominated by white, baby boomer-created music with poetic aspiration and anti-establishment undertones.

Wenner founded Rolling Stone with journalist Ralph J. Gleason in San Francisco in 1967.