Jann Wenner co-founded Rolling Stone in 1967. In 2017, he sold it to Penske Media for more than $100 million. That same year, he was accused of sexual assault from former employees. More recently, he wrote the book The Masters, which is slated for publication later this month.
In a new interview with The New York Times that has gone viral, he clumsily explained why The Masters, which is a compilation of interviews with prominent rock figures, only centers on white men. David Marchese asked, “In the introduction, you acknowledge that performers of color and women performers are just not in your zeitgeist. Which to my mind is not plausible for Jann Wenner. Janis Joplin, Joni Mitchell, Stevie Nicks, Stevie Wonder, the list keeps going — not in your zeitgeist? What do you think is the deeper explanation for why you interviewed the subjects you interviewed and not other subjects?”
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 claimed, “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 said. “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.”
See the stir this is causing on social media below. Wenner also had more to say on the subject, so check out the full interview here.
Why poptimism happened: read this wild NYT Jann Wenner Q&A, in which JW argues that Black & women artists aren’t as “articulate on an intellectual level” as white male rockers. Poptimism was a corrective to a critical consensus that hallowed white dudes w/guitars above all others pic.twitter.com/ftdNsFqgjC
— Jody Rosen (@jodyrosen) September 15, 2023