Jann Wenner Ousted from Rock Hall Board Over Controversial Remarks

Diversity concerns arise in Wenner's latest publication

by Nouman Rasool
Jann Wenner Ousted from Rock Hall Board Over Controversial Remarks
© Michael Loccisano/GettyImages

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation announced the removal of Jann Wenner from its Board of Directors following a controversial New York Times interview. Wenner, founder of the iconic Rolling Stone magazine, had made comments suggesting that Black and female musicians did not articulate their artistry at the same level as their white male counterparts.

In the interview, when asked by Times' Dave Marchese about the lack of diversity in his latest book "The Masters," Wenner responded that, while artists such as Stevie Wonder were undeniably geniuses, they did not "articulate at that level." He went on to highlight works by Pete Townshend and Mick Jagger as examples of deep articulation about a specific generation's spirit and attitude towards rock ’n’ roll.

Wenner's Book Lacks Diversity

Wenner's book has been criticized for focusing solely on white male musicians like Bob Dylan, Jerry Garcia, John Lennon, Bruce Springsteen, and U2’s Bono. Many of these artists had been regularly celebrated in Rolling Stone under Wenner’s editorial watch.

The Rolling Stone founder candidly admitted that he might have been old-fashioned in his choices, hinting that perhaps including a Black artist or a woman might have avoided the current criticism. He even expressed a wishful regret about not interviewing Marvin Gaye or the late Otis Redding.

Wenner, who pioneered Rolling Stone in 1967, retained editorial roles until 2019. During the interview, he also stirred controversy by revealing he had let interviewees, including John Lennon in a notable 1970 session, amend their interview transcripts prior to publication.

The fallout from these remarks has been swift, with a slew of negative comments flooding social media platforms. Yet, the most significant repercussion came when the Rock Hall Foundation, of which Wenner is a co-founder, decided to distance itself by removing him from the board.

Although he had not been a part of the Rock Hall museum's board, he had chaired the foundation until 2020. It's worth noting that in 2019, Wenner stepped back from Rolling Stone shortly after its full acquisition by Penske Media Corporation (PMC).

While PMC took a controlling stake in Wenner Media in December 2017 at an estimated value exceeding $100 million, Wenner still holds the title of editorial director. This recent controversy underscores the ongoing discussions in the music industry about representation, diversity, and the recognition of artists from all backgrounds.