Rolling Stone magazine founder Jann Wenner was removed from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in what many considered a response to his recent comments about Black and female musicians.
In an interview with the New York Times released on Friday, Wenner discussed his new book “The Masters” which features interviews with seven iconic musicians. When pressed about why he only included conversations with White men, he suggested that Black or female musicians didn’t “articulate” enough for his personal interest.
“When I was referring to the zeitgeist, I was referring to Black performers, not to the female performers, OK? Just to get that accurate. 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,” Wenner said.
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He added, “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.”
By Saturday, the organization released a short statement reading, “Jann Wenner has been removed from the Board of Directors of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation.”
While the statement did not clarify whether Wenner’s comments influenced the decision, Wenner himself released a statement shortly afterward apologizing for his remarks.
“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 in a statement given to The Hollywood Reporter.
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“’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,” he added. “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.”
The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation didn’t immediately respond for comment.
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During the New York Times interview, Wenner previously claimed that while he “should” have included more diversity in his line-up, he ultimately didn’t “give a [expletive]” about it.
“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,” Wenner said. “Which, I get it. I had a chance to do that. 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.”
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