The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has made the decision to remove co-founder Jann Wenner from its board of directors following comments he made about the exclusion of women and Black musicians in his latest book, The Masters, repugnantly alleging neither can “articulate” themselves well enough.
Curiously, speaking with New York Times, Wenner says he allowed artists to edit their interview transcripts in order to clarify certain remarks “because it’s a long stream of yap and verbiage and you sometimes don’t think through every word.”
Basically, the 77-year-old Wenner is admitting that the interview subjects included in his book (all white male musicians) were not the most articulate themselves, yet they were worthy of inclusion while women and Black musicians were not, establishing an obvious double standard.
Why Did the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Remove Jann Wenner From the Board of Directors?
In his latest book, The Masters, Wenner (who founded Rolling Stone and left the company in 2019 after it was acquired by Penske Media Corporation), compiles interviews he conducted during his time at the magazine.
White male musicians make up 100 percent of the interview content (seven total musician interviews are featured — Bono, Bob Dylan, Jerry Garcia, Mick Jagger, John Lennon, Bruce Springsteen, Pete Townshend), which Wenner defends when asked by the The New York Times why other demographics of rock musicians, such as women and Black artists, were not included despite their significant influence on this type of music.
The Masters is touted as “a visit to the Mount Olympus of rock” in a description on the Hachette Book Group webstore (the book is published through Little Brown and Company, which is owned by Hachette Book Group).
In response to Wenner’s comments on why he did not include interviews with women and Black musicians (detailed further below), the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame issued the following statement (via Billboard):
Jann Wenner has been removed from the Board of Directors of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation.
What Did Jann Wenner Say About Women Musicians?
The New York Times needles Wenner constantly throughout the interview, pushing back against what they perceive to be outlandish claims.
“In the introduction, you acknowledge that performers of color and women performs are just not in your zeitgeist,” The New York Times notes, listing several names of women and Black artists while asking how it is possible that none of them are in Wenner’s self-described “zeitgeist.”
“When I was referring to the zeitgeist, I was referring to Black performers, not to the female performers, OK? Just to get that accurate,” Wenner fires back, adding, “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 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.”
Calling out this notion, The New York Times challenges Wenner on these comments, to which he replies, “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.”
When asked how he knows this without having given them a chance to articulate themselves, Wenner says he has read interviews with them and has listened to their music, but does not feel they had anything to say that was on the level of what The Who’s Pete Townshend or The Rolling Stones‘ Mick Jagger in particular did.
What Did Jann Wenner Say About Black Musicians?
“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,” Wenner argues.
Does Jann Wenner Have Regrets About Not Including Women + Black Artists in His Book?
When asked whether it’s possible that Wenner lead with artists that align with his own personal interests rather than “any ability or inability on the part of [women and Black] artists,” the Rock Hall co-founder reveals, “That was my No. 1 thing. The selection was intuitive. It was what I was interested in.”
It appears that Wenner is confessing that he is not interested in rock music made by women or Black artists.
Reflecting on how he could have approached this differently, Wenner says he “maybe” should have included women and Black artists “for public relations sake” rather than historical representation, even going so far as to state he should have intentionally underwhelmed with his book just to appease the notion of diversity.
“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. Which, I get it. I had a chance to do that,” Wenner responds.
“Maybe I’m old-fashioned and I don’t give a [expletive] or whatever,” he goes on, a pathetic excuse that infers that being “old-fashioned” is a license to engage in casual misogyny and racism.
“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,” Wenner sardonically muses.
Jann Wenner Issues Apology After Defending His Exclusion of Women + Black Musicians In His Book
After steadfastly defending his decisions while under scrutiny during the The New York Times interview, Wenner has issued a public apology via The Hollywood Reporter:
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. The Masters is a collection of interviews I’ve done over the years that seemed to me to best represent an idea of rock ‘n’ roll’s impact on my world; they were 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. They don’t reflect my appreciation and admiration for myriad totemic, world-changing artists whose music and ideas I revere and will celebrate and promote as long as I live. I totally understand the inflammatory nature of badly chosen words and deeply apologize and accept the consequences.
Read Wenner’s original interview with The New York Times in its entirety here.
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