The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has removed Rolling Stones co-founder Jann Wenner, 77, from its board of directors after he made comments about Black musicians and women in an interview with The New York Times.
"Jann Wenner has been removed from the Board of Directors of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation," said the organization that honors rock artists, which Wenner co-founded.
Wenner was interviewed to talk about his new book, The Masters, which is a collection of interviews with rock and roll stars such as Mick Jagger, Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Bruce Springsteen and Bono.
When asked by journalist David Marchese why he did not interview female or Black singers, the co-founder of Rolling Stones magazine said:
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.
Not having conducted interviews with non-white artists, Wenner knew there would be a critical backlash against him:
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.
After being removed as a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame board of directors, Wenner's publisher, Little, Brown and Company, issued the following statement of apology:
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.
'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. 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.