'Rolling Stone' Co-Founder Booted From Rock & Roll HOF After Comments About Black and Female Musicians


One of the founders of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation in 1983 has been “removed” from the organizations board of directors after comments about black and female performers he made in an interview published Friday.

Jann Wenner, who also co-founded Rolling Stone magazine in 1967, made the comments in an interview with The New York Times about his new book, “The Masters,” a collection of interviews Wenner conducted with household names like Bono, Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger and Bruce Springsteen.

Wenner was asked why none of the interviews included in “The Masters” were women or people of color, and his response has been widely criticized as both racist and sexist, according to a separate article in the Times.

“Just none of them were as articulate enough on this intellectual level,” Wenner said of the women in rock and roll that he has known. He made a similar comment about black performers.

“Of Black artists — you know, Stevie Wonder, genius, right?” he told the Times. “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.”

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“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 added. “Which, I get it. I had a chance to do that.”

Response to the comments was as quick as it was ugly.

Typical was a social media post by author Dawnie Walton, referring to her own book on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, called the comments “enraging, disgusting, offensive.”

Self-described “Black Gay Music Critic” Craig Seymour accused Rolling Stone, which Wenner sold in 2020, of being a an important part of “an oppressive system of value that Rolling Stone helped create and perpetuate.”

According to a 2019 article from Billboard, only 7.7 percent of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s inductees up that point had been women, as were only 4.17 percent of the 2020 nominees.

Wenner and his publisher, Little, Brown and Company, attempted damage control quickly, issuing a statement Saturday evening.

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“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 statement said, according to the Times.

“‘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,” Wenner explained in the statement. “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 apologize and accept the consequences,” he added.

Should Wenner have been removed from the board for his comments?

That apology was apparently too little, too late — or both — for the other members of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation board, which also issued a statement Saturday, albeit a significantly shorter one than Wenner’s.

“Jann Wenner has been removed from the board of directors of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation,” the statement said, according to the Times.

Little, Brown and Company did not respond to a request for further comment from NBC News.

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George Upper is the former Editor-in-Chief of The Western Journal and was a weekly co-host of "WJ Live," powered by The Western Journal. He is currently a contributing editor in the areas of faith, politics and culture. A former U.S. Army special operator, teacher and consultant, he is a lifetime member of the NRA and an active volunteer leader in his church. Born in Foxborough, Massachusetts, he has lived most of his life in central North Carolina.
George Upper, is the former editor-in-chief of The Western Journal and is now a contributing editor in the areas of faith, politics and culture. He currently serves as the connections pastor at Awestruck Church in Greensboro, North Carolina. He is a former U.S. Army special operator, teacher, manager and consultant. Born in Massachusetts, he graduated from Foxborough High School before joining the Army and spending most of the next three years at Fort Bragg. He holds bachelor's and master's degrees in English as well as a Master's in Business Administration, all from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. He and his wife life only a short drive from his three children, their spouses and his grandchildren. He is a lifetime member of the NRA and in his spare time he shoots, reads a lot of Lawrence Block and John D. MacDonald, and watches Bruce Campbell movies. He is a fan of individual freedom, Tommy Bahama, fine-point G-2 pens and the Oxford comma.
Foxborough, Massachusetts
Beta Gamma Sigma
B.A., English, UNCG; M.A., English, UNCG; MBA, UNCG
North Carolina
Languages Spoken
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Faith, Business, Leadership and Management, Military, Politics