One might rightfully ask what Jann Wenner, founder of Rolling Stone magazine and co-founder of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, was thinking during his interview with the New York Times last week. Wenner has long been respected for his eye for what is great about rock music. But his comments last week might have lost him the respect of thousands.
Wenner has a new book called The Masters. He was going through the rounds of publicity to sell the book and this was why he was being interviewed by the New York Times. The book, according to Wenner, 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." The interviews were conducted with seven musical artists, all white men - Bono, Bob Dylan, Jerry Garcia, Pete Townshend, Bruce Springsteen, John Lennon, and Mick Jagger.
One could rightfully assume that when one choices the subjects of a book they do so intentionally. Therefore, leaving any persons of color and all women out of the book would also be intentional. In the introduction of the book, Wenner admits as much and implies he was far more familiar with the work and thoughts of white men and how they affected him.
Jann Wenner says stupid things and pays the price
The question of why there were no persons of color or women as subjects in the book was brought up by the New York Times. Wenner answered, "The people (in the book) 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."
That last part is pretty damning, right? There's no way for Wenner to spin saying none of the female musical artists he knew during the fairly early years of rock were "articulate enough on this intellectual level" in a positive way. He basically said the women he knew were not smart.
But Wenner didn't just stop with female artists. About black artists, Wenner said, "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."
So yea, the persons of color that Wenner knew also weren't intelligent enough to think philospohically about music. In other words, Wenner thinks they were limited in their ability to process and observe.
Due to these comments, Wenner was removed from the board of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which he helped co-found. Too bad they didn't find out about Wenner decades ago and he could have played no part in the Rock Hall's founding. Or if Wenner was never involved with music because he clearly has a narrow view of who is smart enough to make great music and talk about it because Wenner clearly has no clue who can.