Jann Wenner—the co-founder of Rolling Stone magazine and a co-founder of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame—has been removed from the hall's board of directors after making comments in a New York Times interview that were widely seen as derogatory towards Black and female musicians.
The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation announced Wenner's removal from the board in a statement issued on Saturday, one day after his controversial comments were published.
In a New York Times interview promoting his new book, The Masters, which features interviews with legendary musicians like Bob Dylan, Jerry Garcia, Mick Jagger, John Lennon, and Bruce Springsteen—Wenner faced criticism for excluding women and Black musicians from his book. All of the musicians featured in the book are white males.
When asked about his decision to exclude women and Black musicians, Wenner responded:
“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."
“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."
Wenner seemed aware he would face backlash for his remarks but nonetheless continued:
"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.”
Wenner, who co-founded the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, founded Rolling Stone magazine in 1967 and served as its editor or editorial director until 2019, making significant contributions to music journalism and the recognition of various artists.
Rolling Stone distanced itself from Wenner, saying in a statement that his remarks "do not represent the values and practices" of the magazine, adding that its overall purpose has been to "tell stories that reflect the diversity of voices and experiences that shape our world."
His comments have drawn further criticism for their racist and sexist nature.
While this controversy has unfolded, Rolling Stone's "500 Greatest Albums of All Time" list from last year included several albums by Black and female artists.
The list included Marvin Gaye, Joni Mitchell, Stevie Wonder, Prince, and Lauryn Hill, further highlighting the significance of their contributions to rock and roll.