The Legacy of Jann Wenner - May It Not Rest In Peace

The first issue of Rolling Stone, November 1967
Just in case you're not familiar with Jann Wenner, he was the founder of Rolling Stone magazine way back in 1967, and until this past weekend the highly influential publisher also held a seat on the board of directors of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame since its inception in 1983.

Wenner's surprising and rapid removal from the Cleveland museum's board is a news story currently receiving a lot of deserved attention. His downfall came because of things he said during an interview with David Marchese of the New York Times while promoting his new book, The Masters.

The 396 page volume contains old interviews Wenner conducted for his famous rock magazine that he sold in 2017. The interviews are with seven musicians he believes are the most intellectually articulate. Alphabetically, they are Bono, Bob Dylan, Jerry Garcia, Mick Jagger, John Lennon, Bruce Springsteen, and Pete Townsend.

If Wenner had simply said he wanted to honor his seven favorite artists and their music in print that would have been an acceptable answer. What got him in a lot of trouble were his answers to Marchese's question about why the book only featured white, male musicians.

Wenner's response, “The selection was not a deliberate selection.” “It was kind of intuitive over the years; it just fell together that way. The people had to meet a couple of criteria, but it was just kind of my personal interest and love of them. Insofar as the women, just none of them were as articulate enough on this intellectual level.”

The rock music fan continued. "It’s not that they’re not creative geniuses,” “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. Not by her work, not by other interviews she did. The people I interviewed were the kind of philosophers of rock.

“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.”             

There is one other scenario that no one seems to have mentioned. Wenner also doesn't appear to hold anyone in high regard who isn't an established presence on classic rock radio. The youngest - Bono, age 63 - began his recording career with U2 in 1980. Springsteen arrived on the scene in the 70s, and the remaining five came of age in the 60s. The interviewer ran a music magazine for decades but he couldn't find even one younger musician that he believes is intellectually articulate?

I've never been a strong supporter of the raging cancel culture, but you just can't write off all of the contributions by an entire gender or ethnic group as not being worthy. You just can't! To all of the thousands of women and non-white artists out there trying to earn a living and entertain us in a difficult profession, I thank you for your contributions to an art form I have always loved.


  1. An opportunist jerk, to be polite. Given a pass for way too long.

  2. He's a right bloody wanker is what he is! And other than Townshend and Lennon (and even sometimes Lennon too) those "masters" are a bunch of pretentious self-important gits... especially Bono.


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