View: Why Jann Wenner got kicked out of the hall of fame he served make

Editor’s observe: Gene Seymour is a critic who has published about songs, videos and lifestyle for The New York Moments, Newsday, Leisure Weekly and The Washington Submit. Comply with him on Twitter @GeneSeymour. The views expressed in this commentary are his have. Read extra impression on CNN.


Jann Wenner’s expulsion this weekend from the board of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation feels like a moment of reckoning, not just for the co-founder and longtime publisher/editor of Rolling Stone magazine, but for a entire era of pop society — and how the background of that era is presented.

If you are just tuning in, an interview with Wenner — who aided set up the Cleveland-based corridor of fame in 1983 and was inducted in 2004 as a nonperformer — appeared in Friday’s New York Periods. The posting aimed to boost Wenner’s new reserve, “The Masters,” which gathers his interviews with these rock icons as Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, John Lennon, the Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger, the Who’s Pete Townsend, the Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia and U2’s Bono.

At 1 point in the discussion, Situations Magazine columnist David Marchese requested Wenner, 77, why there ended up no women or persons of colour among the the “masters” in his pantheon. Wenner replied that his variety of artists about the many years was “kind of intuitive” and not “deliberate” and that he did not locate ladies rock artists to be “articulate enough” on an “intellectual stage.”

Presented a prospect to rephrase, Wenner mentioned, “It’s not that they are inarticulate, while, go have a deep discussion with Grace Slick or Janis Joplin. Remember to, be my guest.” He also didn’t believe that Joni Mitchell to be as a great deal “a thinker of rock ‘n’ roll” as the white gentlemen he interviewed.

His remarks on Black artists have been significantly less direct, but oddly, almost as reductive: “… You know, Stevie Marvel. Genius, ideal? I suppose when you use a word as broad as ‘masters,’ the fault is employing that term. Possibly Marvin Gaye, or Curtis Mayfield? I indicate, they just did not articulate at that amount.”

“How do you know,” Marchese questioned, “if you did not give them a probability?”

“Because I examine interviews with them,” Wenner replied. “I pay attention to their songs.”

I locate myself inquiring: Did you? Did you seriously? Experienced the chance presented by itself, I could have steered Wenner to any quantity of interviews with Black pop artists of the mid-20th century, from Chuck Berry to Berry Gordy, Ray Charles to Jimi Hendrix.

Not all of them ended up quickly forthcoming and may possibly have necessary to be drawn out. But really do not you think the editor-in-chief of the world’s most influential rock-and-pop magazine could have pried open up even someone as evasive and recalcitrant as Michael Jackson? Or Prince? Great God, male! Have you read some of Quincy Jones’ recent Q&As? He’d inform you just about anything at all you want to know — and much more!

And no, I in no way had a opportunity to have little talk with Joplin or Slick, though I keep in mind ample of their Tv talk present appearances from the late 1960s to have located them humorous and articulate about by themselves and their operate. Mitchell’s savviness about not just rock, but also folk, jazz and common pop idioms are accessible in a lot of boards. All you will need to do is appear, and the world wide web would make looking much easier than at any time.

Anyway, moot issue. Wenner’s remarks were regarded as racist and sexist, and he was voted off the board he assisted create. Mortifying, for certain. But also illuminating, primarily to individuals of the boomer era who arrived of age with Rolling Stone and at numerous periods in their lives, embraced it as a bellwether of the zeitgeist and, as with most mass circulation publications, a marker for consensus.

Mass media has been reeling for at least the previous 30 several years from fissures in consensus opinion. If Wenner’s pantheon of rock gods doesn’t sync with your personal, very well, yours is not likely to jibe with mine or any individual else’s.

If you want to know just how fragmented factors are, just go on your social media system of choice and announce, nonetheless tentatively or innocuously, that you like any pop artist. Within milliseconds, another person else will not only disagree but also disparage you for even bringing it up. This is the earth.

But there was a time when the personalized preferences of a Jann Wenner or other media moguls established the desk for who was up or down in a hierarchy, culturally or politically. Even disagreeing with the moguls was tantamount to ratifying their value and made it far more complicated to people huddling exterior the zeitgeist to be read, or even noticed.

Sooner or later, the zeitgeist transformed on its have, as hip-hop prevailed over rock ‘n’ roll’s former terrain. Even Wenner acknowledged, in an job interview previous 12 months advertising his memoir, “Like a Rolling Stone,” that rock was lifeless and “it’s not coming back again. It’ll end up like jazz.”

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But jazz didn’t die, and neither will rock. They persist in areas where by media moguls have merely stopped looking, whilst nevertheless holding on to devoted supporters and attracting curious novices. They go on without the Jann Wenners location the agendas and creating hierarchies.

It’s possible it’s the impulse to set agendas from insular preferences which is really on its way out and not the new music or the musicians or their legacies that are declining. In quick, it is the masses that are shifting due to the fact there is no conveniently definable consensus about everything in a social media universe. Wenner, I would have thought, is sensible plenty of to know that. So maybe it would have been superior for him to say his book wasn’t about the ultimate “masters.” Just some men he happens to assume are excellent.

If Wenner should ever question me, I’d be happy to track down interviews with Stevie Ponder or Smokey Robinson that he can go through. I understand they are still all-around somewhere, acquiring no lack of delivers for get the job done and no lack of accolades.