He may be partly responsible for two of the biggest American cultural endeavours of the last few decades, but it seems as though Jann Wenner is not quite as cultured as he may believe himself to be.
Wenner co-founded both Rolling Stone magazine (which he has no involvement in) and the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, but his comments surrounding the publication of his new book have not gone down well.
Wenner's new book 'The Masters' compiles his interviews with seven icons of music, including Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger, John Lennon and Bruce Springsteen.
However, while promoting it during a New York Times Q&A, the 77-year-old's comments about his selection of interviewee caused quite a stir, after he suggested that there were no women or people of colour included in the book because they were not as intellectually articulate as the white men he chose to include.
"The selection was not a deliberate selection,” Wenner said in the interview with NYT journalist David Marchese. "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."
When Marchese asked him "You’re telling me Joni Mitchell is not articulate enough on an intellectual level?", Wenner replied: "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. 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 continued: "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."
His comments have understandably generated controversy - so much so that yesterday, the day after the interview was published, Wenner was removed from the Board of Directors at the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame.
Wenner released an apology via his publisher, which said: "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 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. 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.”