The foundation and a representative for Wenner, 77, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The Times interview coincided with the upcoming release this month of Wenner’s book “The Masters,” a compilation of his interviews over the years with music greats Bob Dylan, Jerry Garcia, Mick Jagger, John Lennon, Bruce Springsteen, Pete Townshend and U2’s Bono — all of whom are White and male.
When asked by Times reporter David Marchese why he did not include female artists or people or color on his list of rock legends, Wenner responded, “Insofar as the women, just none of them were as articulate enough on this intellectual level.”
He went on to state that female artists such as Joni Mitchell did not meet his criteria to be considered a “philosopher of rock ’n’ roll.”
“She didn’t, in my mind, meet that test,” Wenner said. “Not by her work, not by other interviews she did. The people I interviewed were the kind of philosophers of rock.”
Regarding artists of color, he 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.”
Wenner’s remarks drew immediate backlash online and beyond. The Montclair Literary Festival in New Jersey, where he was slated to be a celebrity guest, canceled a Sept. 28 promotion for his book.
On social media, commentators resurfaced past criticism of his previous writing and Rolling Stone’s coverage of female artists under his guidance.
Rock critic Jessica Hopper quipped that “The Masters” would be more aptly titled “The Misters.” And Joe Hagan, a writer for Vanity Fair who published a critical biography of Wenner titled “Sticky Fingers” in 2017, tweeted that Rolling Stone under Wenner was rampant with chauvinism.
Wenner founded Rolling Stone in 1967 with Ralph J. Gleason and spent decades at the helm before leaving the magazine in 2019. He was also among the group of music and media executives who established the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation in 1983.
The hall has also been criticized for its relative lack of female and minority inductees, with some recent improvement. According to reporting by the L.A. Times, the 2023 class of inductees was the most varied in the organization’s history, with women and musicians of color outnumbering White men.
However, among the 719 inductees to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in all categories as of early 2023, only 61 are women, according to Hopper. Meanwhile, “the percentage of total people of color in the hall has declined every year,” down from 55.8 percent in 1989 to 32.7 percent in 2019, pop culture scholar and hall voter Evelyn McDonnell wrote that year.
Wenner was inducted into the hall as a non-performer in 2004.
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