Rolling Stone Co-Founder Removed From Rock Hall Board Over Comments About Black, Female Musicians
Louis Lanzano/ Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation ousted Rolling Stone magazine co-founder Jann Wenner from its leadership for suggesting black and female musicians weren’t as “articulate” as white artists.

“Jann Wenner has been removed from the Board of Directors of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation,” the hall reportedly said Saturday.

TMZ reports that officials voted to remove Wenner from the Hall of Fame’s board, adding that Bruce Springsteen’s manager, Jon Landau, was the lone dissenting vote.

Officials announced Wenner’s removal a day after the New York Times published an interview with the 77-year-old American magazine magnate that centered around his forthcoming book, “The Masters.” It contains seven new and collected interviews with some of the most legendary rock stars and cultural icons of the past generation, including Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger, John Lennon, Bruce Springsteen, Bono, Pete Townshend, and Jerry Garcia.

During the Times interview, the reporter asked Wenner why he did not include other subjects, specifically black or female artists — who he reportedly acknowledged were not in his “zeitgeist.”

“When I was referring to the zeitgeist, I was referring to Black performers, not to the female performers, OK?” Wenner said. “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.”

The interviewer pushed back, asking if he believes artists like Joni Mitchell are not intellectually articulate enough for an interview.

“It’s not that they’re not creative geniuses,” he said in an attempt to rephrase his previous answer. “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 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?” he continued. “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,” he said.

Wenner then told the Times that for “public relations sake” he should have included “one Black and one woman artist … just to avert this kind of criticism.”


His comments immediately sparked a firestorm of criticism that pushed him to issue an apology through his publisher, Little, Brown and Company. 

“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,” Wenner said. “I totally understand the inflammatory nature and badly chosen words and deeply apologize and accept the consequences.”

The publisher reportedly added that his upcoming book was “not meant to represent the whole of music and its 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,” and that he would “celebrate and promote” artists not represented for the rest of his life.

Wenner co-founded Rolling Stone with journalist Ralph J. Gleason in San Francisco in 1967. He served as its editor or editorial director until 2019. 

In 1983, Wenner also co-founded the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, which the founders launched four years later. He served as its chairman until 2020.

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