Jann Wenner, the founder of Rolling Stone and co-founder of the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame, has said female and black artists aren’t “intellectual enough” to be interviewed for his new book, The Masters.
Within the book, Wenner asks questions of seven “philosophers of rock”, notably all white men – Bono, Bob Dylan, the late Jerry Garcia, Mick Jagger, the late John Lennon, Bruce 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 with David Marchese of The New York Times, 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.”
Marchese then questioned how Wenner could know that if he didn’t give those artists the chance to speak.
“Because I read interviews with them. I listen to their music. I mean, look at what Pete Townshend was writing about, or Jagger, or any of them. They were deep things about a particular generation, a particular spirit and a particular attitude about rock ’n’ roll. Not that the others weren’t, but these were the ones that could really articulate it.”
Following the comments, Rolling Stone has since issued a comment, confirming that Wenner’s views do not align with those of the company.
Our statement on Jann Wenner's recent comments. pic.twitter.com/dL7lMSTP3k
— Rolling Stone (@RollingStone) September 18, 2023
“Jann Wenner’s recent statements to the New York Times do not represent the values and practices of today’s Rolling Stone,” it read.
“Jann Wenner has not been directly involved in our operations since 2019. Our purpose, especially since his departure, has been to tell stories that reflect the diversity of voices and experiences that shape our world. At Rolling Stone’s core is the understanding that music above all can bring us together, not divide us.”