Rock & Roll Hall of Fame ousts Jann Wenner from board after controversial interview

Jann Wenner discussing his new book "Like a Rolling Stone: A Memoir" at 92nd Street Y on Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2022, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)
Jann Wenner in New York in 2022. (Evan Agostini / Invision / AP)

Jann Wenner has been removed from the board of directors of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation, the organization said in a statement to The Times on Saturday.

The statement did not elaborate on the reasons for the ouster. But it comes on the heels of a controversial interview, published Friday in the New York Times, to promote Wenner's forthcoming book, "The Masters," a collection of interviews with leading rock musicians of the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s that includes only white men, such as Mick Jagger, Pete Townshend, Bono and Bruce Springsteen.

Reporter David Marchese asked the Rolling Stone magazine founder why he had not included interviews with any Black musicians or women in the book.

"The selection was not a deliberate selection," Wenner replied. "It was kind of intuitive over the years; it just fell together that way. The people had to meet a couple criteria, but it was just kind of my personal interest and love of them."

When Marchese suggested that women like Madonna and Joni Mitchell might have had something interesting to say, Wenner claimed that "none of them were as articulate enough on this intellectual level."

"It’s not that they’re not creative geniuses. It’s not that they’re inarticulate, although, go have a deep conversation with Grace Slick or Janis Joplin," he said. "Please, be my guest. You know, Joni was not a philosopher of rock ’n’ roll. She didn’t, in my mind, meet that test. Not by her work, not by other interviews she did. The people I interviewed were the kind of philosophers of rock."

He also defended excluding Black artists like Stevie Wonder. "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 interview went viral on Friday, prompting widespread criticism of Wenner and portraying him as embodying stereotypes about baby boomer self-absorption and entitlement.

Wenner, who co-founded the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, declined to comment when reached by The Times on Saturday.

Elsewhere in the New York Times story, Wenner defended controversial articles published during his tenure at Rolling Stone, including an article about a gang rape at the University of Virginia that turned out to be fabricated.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.