Rolling Stone long has been seen as a left-of-center magazine, focusing on rock music and taking generally progressive stands on politics. One would think that the magazine's co-founder would be sensitive to issues affecting minorities, including women and Blacks. But in an interview with The New York Times about his upcoming memoir, Jann Wenner reveals that he has a tin ear on subjects that likely matter a lot to his audience.
Why would someone with Wenner's background be tone deaf on discrimination, especially as it applies to women and Blacks? Donald Watkins, longtime Alabama attorney and civil-rights advocate, examines that question -- and the answer apparently can be summed up in two words: arrogance and conceit. Wenner, for all of his liberal posturing, seems steeped in those two ugly traits.
Under the headline "Rolling Stone's Jann Wenner: "Women, Blacks Not Articulate Enough On An Intellectual Level,” Watkins writes:
Jann S. Wenner, the 77-year-old co-founder of Rolling Stone magazine and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, made news last week when he explained his reason for failing to include women and Black musicians in his forthcoming book, The Masters.
Wenner’s book includes interviews with White men such as Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger, John Lennon, Bruce Springsteen, and Bono.
When asked by the New York Times why The Masters did not include interviews with women or black musicians, Wenner gave this candid and shocking response:
"Just none of them were articulate enough on this intellectual level," Wenner is quoted as saying about the women of rock.
He expressed similar thoughts regarding Black rock artists, some of whom created the music and culture Wenner reflected upon and profited from with Rolling Stone.
“Of Black artists — you know, Stevie Wonder, genius, right?” Wenner said, according to the interview. “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.”
The insults did not stop there, writes Watkins:
Wenner also stated that he did not feel the need to include even a token woman or Black musician in The Masters.
“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,” he said in the interview. “Which, I get it. I had a chance to do that.”
After a firestorm of criticism about his comments, Jann Wenner released a statement on Saturday apologizing for his comments about women and Black musicians.
"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," said Wenner’s statement.
Late Saturday, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame removed Wenner from its board of directors.