From the New York Times news section, 77-year-old Rolling Stone magazine founder Jann Wenner gets canceled for Elderly Tourette’s Syndrome, one of my favorite ailments for all the interesting things it reveals:
The Rolling Stone co-founder’s exit comes a day after The New York Times published an interview in which he made widely criticized comments.
By Ben Sisario
Sept. 16, 2023
Jann Wenner, the co-founder of Rolling Stone magazine, has been removed from the board of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation, which he also helped found, one day after an interview with him was published in The New York Times in which he made comments that were widely criticized as sexist and racist.
The foundation—which inducts artists into the hall of fame and was the organization behind the creation of its affiliated museum in Cleveland—made the announcement in a brief statement released Saturday.
“Jann Wenner has been removed from the board of directors of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation,” the statement said. Joel Peresman, the president and chief executive of the foundation, declined to comment further when reached by phone.
But the dismissal of Mr. Wenner comes after an interview with The Times, published Friday and timed to the publication of his new book, called “The Masters,” which collects his decades of interviews with rock legends like Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger, John Lennon, Bruce Springsteen and Bono—all of them white and male.
Bono, Dylan, Garcia, Jagger, Lennon, Springsteen, Townshend: seven white guys born between 1940 (Lennon) and 1960 (Bono). Six of the seven were born in the 1940s.
Wenner himself was born in the very good year of 1946 when so many super successful people were born, such as three Presidents. (This brouhaha is a good example of why we should stop using purportedly generational terms like “Baby Boomer”—1946-1964—and use self-explanatory terms like 40s Baby. Wenner was born on January 7, 1946, which makes him a Boomer. If he’d arrived one week earlier, he, like so many of his heroes would be a member of the [not so] Silent Generation. But, c’mon, we’re talking about 40s Babies, which for the single most famous example of the generation gap, 1960s rock, is a much more useful term than splitting the cohort down the middle with opaque generational terms.)
It’s almost as if Wenner’s book concentrated on his wheelhouse, the rock stars he knows best, rather than be diverse for the sake of diversity.
Wenner does know an awful lot about white male rock stars born in the 1940s.
It’s his thing. He was there.
In the interview, David Marchese of The Times asked Mr. Wenner, 77, why the book included no women or people of color.
Regarding women, Mr. Wenner said, “Just none of them were as articulate enough on this intellectual level,” and remarked that Joni Mitchell “was not a philosopher of rock ’n’ roll.”
His answer about artists of color was less direct. “Of Black artists—you know, Stevie Wonder, genius, right?” he said. “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.”
From the interview:
Q. This is also a history-will-speak kind of question. There are seven subjects in the new book; seven white guys. In the introduction, you acknowledge that performers of color and women performers are just not in your zeitgeist. Which to my mind is not plausible for Jann Wenner. Janis Joplin, Joni Mitchell, Stevie Nicks, Stevie Wonder, the list keeps going—not in your zeitgeist? What do you think is the deeper explanation for why you interviewed the subjects you interviewed and not other subjects?
A. Well, let me just. …
Q. Carole King, Madonna. There are a million examples.
A. When I was referring to the zeitgeist, I was referring to Black performers, not to the female performers, OK? 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.
Q. Oh, stop it. You’re telling me Joni Mitchell is not articulate enough on an intellectual level?
Obviously, Joni Mitchell is a legendary talent. But she’s been in poor health for quite a few decades.
A. Hold on a second.
Q. I’ll let you rephrase that.
A. All right, thank you. 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.
Q. How do you know if you didn’t give them a chance?
A. 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.
Q. Don’t you think it’s actually more to do with your own interests as a fan and a listener than anything particular to the artists? I think the problem is when you start saying things like “they” or “these artists can’t.” Really, it’s a reflection of what you’re interested in more than any ability or inability on the part of these artists, isn’t it?
A. That was my No. 1 thing. The selection was intuitive. It was what I was interested in. 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.
Redding does appear to be one of the great losses to American music in his plane crash. He apparently had his act together personally, so he likely would have gone on for a long time making interesting music.
In Wenner’s defense, look at some of the white male superstars who didn’t make his cut, most notably Paul McCartney, Brian Wilson, and Elton John, who probably didn’t make Wenner’s criteria of intellectual articulateness. (I would think Bowie would have.)
Nothing is more radioactive in the 2020s than an allusion to the white-black average IQ gap or to the wider distribution of the male than female bell curves (which more or less got Larry Summers fired as president of Harvard).
We all know these differences exist in reality, which is why it is felt so crucial to crush anybody who mentions them.