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Rolling Stone was the music bible.  Jann Wenner’s interview in the New York Times revealed our blind faith.

Back when I was a music-obsessed kid in suburban America, Rolling Stone was my Bible. In the pre-Internet era – and therefore before YouTube – the magazine was THE place to go to get information on the artists my friends and I idolized. He was telling us the history of music, both historically and culturally, in real time.

Except, actually, that wasn’t the case.

Even in the mid-1970s, thanks to older siblings and a musician brother-in-law, my record collection was already overflowing with singles and albums by Stevie Wonder, Joni Mitchell, Muddy Waters, the Isley Brothers, the Spinners. , Isaac Hayes, Janis Ian, Carole King, the Delfonics, Curtis Mayfield, Gladys Knight and many others that I have rarely, if ever, found in the pages of the prestigious magazine. And now we know why.

On Friday, retired Rolling Stone co-founder Jann Wenner was featured in a lengthy interview with the New York Times’ David Marchese about Wenner’s upcoming rock history tome, in which he became clear why the holy trinity of classic rock bands – the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and The Who – as well as Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and (wait for it!) Bono of U2 were covered endlessly, while artists like Marvin Gaye and Kate Bush have been virtually erased from the magazine’s version of music history. Meanwhile, artists like Eric Clapton were allowed to denigrate and downplay the artistry and impact of such renowned artists as Jimi Hendrix in the pages of Rolling Stone without any backlash.

When asked by Marchese why he focused only on white male artists in his new book, Wenner explained that black and female artists, in his opinion, simply don’t “articulate enough” on the same “intellectual level “. (The irony of Wenner saying that women and black artists weren’t speaking out clearly enough in an interview in which he attempted to justify a set of scandalous and unethical journalistic practices, such as letting interview subjects edit their own interviews, apparently escaped him.)

To add insult to injury, Wenner took the name of his magazine from a song by a black man, and many of the “masters” in his book are well-known enthusiasts of female artists and especially male artists black.

So things were bad. It only got worse.

This gatekeeper’s overconfidence was ultimately the real moral of the Times story.

Wenner also defended as “ironclad” the reporting of a 2014 Rolling Stone article about rape culture on college campuses, much of which was later revealed to be completely fabricated (“that key fact” , as Wenner says). And later, when Marchese mentioned that no less than The Who’s Pete Townshend had expressed some criticism of rock ‘n’ roll’s trajectory from an art form to a multibillion-dollar enterprise, Wenner brushed him off completely.

Finally, Wenner also claimed in the interview that no one smokes weed anymore.

To his credit, Marchese politely but firmly rebuffed Wenner’s most ridiculous claims, even saying, “Oh, stop that!” at one point. But honestly, no one should be surprised. He was a man who long considered himself a peer of the artists he helped make stars, reveling in vacations with Mick Jagger and Springsteen. His confidence in his own tastes was unshakeable. Indeed, Wenner previously said it was “easy” to run the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in the early years because the choices were “clear” and “obvious.”

And that gatekeeper’s overconfidence was ultimately the real moral of the Times story.

“It’s hard not to wonder what music culture and cultural journalism would look like if one of the women at the founding of Rolling Stone (Annie Leibovitz being the notable exception) had received proper recognition (Renata Adler helped to edit the historic ‘Family’ issue (uncredited),” wrote journalist Jessica Harper in her review of Joe Hagan’s “Sticky Fingers,” a book about the problematic golden age of Rolling Stone. “Another lament necessary: ​​What would be different today if female artists had been regularly celebrated on the cover of Rolling Stone, rather than misunderstood and even vilified by powerful men in its review pages?

In fact, after Wenner left Rolling Stone in 2019, the magazine updated its list of the 500 greatest albums of all time, incorporating many more female and black artists into its top 50.

On social media this weekend, Wenner – and baby boomers in general – took a hit. Young writers, musicians and fans were asking questions: How have these guys fooled us for so long? And why do they all seem to write memoirs and stories about the end of their lives that ultimately (if inadvertently) reveal their deep moral failings?

Even Rolling Stone was forced to distance itself from its creator:

The Rock Hall board’s vote to remove Wenner was the last straw. The (alleged) only resister? Springsteen’s manager, Jon Landau.

“Jann Wenner worked with these great artists to improve their reputation while selling magazines,” Hagan told me. “And it was a symbiotic relationship. Some of the people featured in the book are his social friends; or are people with whom he collaborated; or has commercial partnerships with; or vacationed with. And so, at this level, there is almost nothing in the book that emanates from critical authority. But above all, he has the illusion of possessing superior critical faculties in matters of music history. And that’s because he institutionalized these people. But just because you’re successful doesn’t mean you’re right. I think he’s learning that right now.

As for Wenner’s time running the Rock Hall — an idea Hagan reported stealing — the author was equally blunt.

“The whole idea was to create a pantheon and be the arbiters of history, because that’s the next level of power beyond a weekly,” Hagan explained. “That’s what he intended to do, and that’s what he did.” But he was so settled in his walled garden that he no longer paid attention to what was happening outside. The world changed under him. He is supposed to be a journalist with standards. This was not apparent in this interview. But what about curiosity? There is not the slightest curiosity in this man, which is the saddest thing for me.

There is not the slightest curiosity in this man, which is the saddest thing for me.

Joe Hagan, Wenner biographer

It seems clear that Wenner, once an emblematic figure of the counterculture, stopped caring about real art a long time ago.

“Unimpressed by metal, grunge, punk, R&B and hip hop, Wenner put U2’s Bono on the cover 16 times before conducting a flattering 16,613-word interview himself in 2005,” points out Adrian McKinty in his review of “Sticky Fingers.”

“He was a fan in 1967, on a pure level,” Hagan said. “But there are two options: you can try to stay young and keep rolling and move on to the new thing – you don’t collect moss. Or you grow up. And he I didn’t do it either. He’s in this strange purgatory where he doesn’t accept anything new and doesn’t grow. He’s trapped in amber in a very strange way.

And so, like Clapton and so many others of the baby boomer generation, Wenner’s arrogant and irrelevant final act seems doomed to be discussed and dissected.

Prophetically, Wenner’s last words in the Times interview were “God forgive me.”