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Backlash to Rolling Stone Co-Founder’s Controversial Remarks on Blacks and Women

NEW YORK — Jann Wenner, a co-founder of Rolling Stone magazine and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, has been removed from the hall’s board of directors after making offensive comments about black and female musicians. He apologized shortly after.

“Jann Wenner has been removed from the Board of Directors of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation,” the hall announced on Saturday, one day after his comments were published in a New York Times interview.

Wenner caused controversy while promoting his new book “The Masters,” in which he interviews musicians such as Bob Dylan, Jerry Garcia, Mick Jagger, John Lennon, Bruce Springsteen, Pete Townshend, and U2’s Bono — all of whom are white and male.

When asked why he didn’t interview women or black musicians, Wenner responded by downplaying their contributions and intelligence. He said, “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,” he told the Times.

Regarding black artists, Wenner stated, “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 said.

Later, Wenner issued an apology through his publisher, Little, Brown and Company, stating, “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.”

He added, “I totally understand the inflammatory nature and badly chosen words and deeply apologize and accept the consequences.”

Wenner co-founded Rolling Stone in 1967 and was its editor until 2019. He also co-founded the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, which was established in 1987.

In the interview, Wenner seemed to anticipate the backlash. “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.”

Last year, Rolling Stone magazine published its list of the “500 Greatest Albums of All Time,” which included albums by black and female artists such as Marvin Gaye, Joni Mitchell, Stevie Wonder, Prince, and Lauryn Hill.

Rolling Stone’s magazine niche is a combination of authoritative music and cultural coverage with tough investigative reporting.

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