Jann Wenner, founder of Rolling Stone and a co-founder and former chairman of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation in New York, is no longer serving on the foundation’s Board of Directors, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation confirms to Billboard.
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“Jann Wenner has been removed from the Board of Directors of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation,” the foundation says in statement released on Saturday (Sept. 16).
Billboard reached out to John Sykes, current chairman of the foundation, and president and CEO Joel Peresman for further comment.
The move comes directly following an interview published by the New York Times Friday, in which Wenner, 77, addressed criticism of the scope of coverage in his new book The Masters, published through Little, Brown and Company.
In The Masters Wenner looks back at a collection of his interviews conducted in his years at Rolling Stone — all with white men, including Bono, Bob Dylan, Jerry Garcia, Mick Jagger, John Lennon, Bruce Springsteen and Pete Townshend.
The book noticeably does not feature any interviews with people of color or female musicians. Wenner notes in his introduction that neither are in his “zeitgeist.”
“When I was referring to the zeitgeist, I was referring to Black performers, not to the female performers, OK? Just to get that accurate,” Wenner told the NYT‘s David Marchese. “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 clarified: “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.”
He added that his selection was “intuitive” and noted, “You know, just for public relations sake, 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. 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.”
On Saturday night (Sept. 16), a few hours after his removal from the Rock Hall Board of Directors, Wenner issued an apology for his comments.
“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 provided to The Hollywood Reporter. “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. 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.”
Wenner, who was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as a non-performer in 2004, was one of the founders of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation in 1983. The founding group intended to celebrate rock ‘n’ roll and honor its icons; the foundation began inducting musicians in 1986. Wenner served as chairman from 2006 through 2020, with Sykes filling the role upon Wenner’s retirement.
He left Rolling Stone in 2019 when the publication was acquired by Penske Media Corporation, which is also Billboard‘s parent company.