Jann Wenner Apologizes for Saying Black and Female Musicians Aren’t “Articulate” Enough for His New Book
Chris Gardner and Kimberly Nordyke, Hollywood Reporter, September 16, 2023
Rolling Stone co-founder Jann Wenner has issued an apology following controversial comments he made about Black and female musicians being not “articulate” enough to be included in his new book.
The apology came Saturday night, a few hours after the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation announced he was being removed from his position on the board of directors.
In an interview with The New York Times — which was published online Friday, to promote his new book, The Masters — Wenner said he didn’t include interviews with Black and female musicians in his book because they aren’t “articulate” enough. On Saturday, he said he apologized “wholeheartedly” for his comments.
Wenner’s book features interviews with such rock legends as Bono, Bob Dylan, Jerry Garcia, Mick Jagger, John Lennon, Bruce Springsteen and Pete Townshend. However, it does not include any interviews with Black or female musicians.
Asked by The Times how he chose the musicians to feature, Wenner replied: “When I was referring to the zeitgeist, I was referring to Black performers, not to the female performers, OK? Just to get that accurate. The selection was not a deliberate selection. 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. Insofar as the women, just none of them were as articulate enough on this intellectual level,” he said.
“It’s not that they’re not creative geniuses,” Wenner replied. “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 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. 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 went on to acknowledge that he could have included a Black musician and a female musician “just for public relations sake” to avoid criticism.