Jann Wenner removed from Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame board after controversial interview

Wenner is the co-founder of the organisation, and apologised in a statement for his "badly chosen words"

Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame co-founder Jann Wenner has been removed from the board of the organisation after a controversial new interview.

In a widely shared and criticised chat with The New York Times this week, Wenner said female and black artists aren’t “intellectual enough” to be interviewed for his new book, The Masters.

In response, the Hall Of Fame decided to remove Wenner from the board, and the Rolling Stone founder shared a statement of apology.


Shared via the publisher of his book, Wenner said: “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 apologise 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 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.”

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 apologise and accept the consequences.”

Jann Wenner
Jann Wenner. Credit: Bruce Glikas/Getty

Within his new book, Wenner asks questions of seven “philosophers of rock”, notably all white men – BonoBob Dylan, the late Jerry Garcia, Mick Jagger, the late John LennonBruce Springsteen, and Pete Townshend.

In the introduction of the book, Wenner writes that women and artists of colour were not in his zeitgeist. He faced questions about this in an interview and argued it wasn’t 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,” he said.

Marchese countered this by asking, “You’re telling me Joni Mitchell is not articulate enough on an intellectual level?”

Wenner responded: “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 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.”

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