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Janis Ian Weighs in on Jann Wenner’s Sexist Comments

todaySeptember 18, 2023

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Janis Ian has responded to a recent interview conducted with Rolling Stone magazine co-founder Jann Wenner in which he stated that female artists were not “articulate enough” for his upcoming book of archival interviews, Masters.
The book includes interviews with Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Mick Jagger, Pete Townshend, Jerry Garcia, Bono and Bruce Springsteen. When asked by The New York Times why there were no women or artists of color, Wenner said that his selection of all white men was not purposeful.

“It was kind of intuitive over the years; it just fell together that way,” he said. “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.
“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 [Mitchell] 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.”
Janis Ian Responds to Jann Wenner
Even though she wasn’t named specifically, singer-songwriter Janis Ian responded to the comments.
“Gee, guess I was never articulate enough for Jann,” she wrote on Facebook. “Guess [Joan] Baez wasn’t. Certainly, Liz Phair, Dolly Parton have no way with words.”
Ian, who’s scored several hits and has two Grammys, noted, “I enjoyed a lot of [Rolling Stone] when it began, but some years later a friend who worked there told us ‘All Jann cares about now is landing the Volkswagen account. Forget it.’ Money and being allowed to hang with ‘the boys’ were the important things, I suppose.”
Mitchell has not spoken on the topic recently, but she expressed her frustration with the magazine years ago. In the early ’70s, Rolling Stone called her “Old Lady of the Year,” and published an illustration of the men Mitchell had allegedly been in relationships with.
“They made this elaborate diagram charting all these hearts I broke. I mean, I can’t date? Am I a sinner for dating?” Mitchell told Details in 1996. “That was kind of shocking. And it was the men on the list who called me up and said they were gonna make a complaint. After that, I was told that the magazine had a policy not to ever say anything nice about me.”
READ MORE: 40 Artists Praise Joni Mitchell: ‘She Saved My Life’

Other artists have weighed in on Wenner’s controversial interview. Go-Go’s bassist Kathy Valentine described Wenner as a “vapid, self-important, self-appointed arbiter of what is deserving of attention in rock” in a post on X (formerly Twitter).
Guitarist Joe Bonamassa also took to X: “This man has done more to bring down the credibility of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame than anyone else. He has been punitive, elitist and frankly kept artists out of the hall over petty grudges and ego.”
Jann Wenner’s Book Doesn’t Include Black Artists
Wenner was also pressed about the lack of Black artists in his book.
“Maybe Marvin Gaye or Curtis Mayfield? I mean, they just didn’t articulate at that level,” he said. “You know, just for public relations sake, maybe I should have gone and found one Black and one woman artist to include here that didn’t measure up to that same historical standard, just to avert this kind of criticism.”
Vernon Reid of Living Colour, who appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone in 1990, addressed Wenner’s claim on social media: “Thus, Marvin Gaye becomes a CHARACTER in Mick Jagger’s narrative — in HIS Heroes Journey — BUT NEVER seen as WORTHY of SERIOUS CONSIDERATION. Black Artists ARE HELD AS SECONDARY & TERTIARY ACTORS in A MEDIUM THEY FORGED. Rinse. Repeat.”
READ MORE: How Marvin Gaye’s ‘What’s Going On’ Transformed Worry Into Faith
Wenner helped found the Rock Hall in 1983 with Atlantic Records co-founder Ahmet Ertegun and served as chairman from 2006 through 2020. He left Rolling Stone magazine in 2019.
Since The New York Times interview, Wenner put out an apology. “I totally understand the inflammatory nature of badly chosen words and deeply apologize and accept the consequences,” he said
He was also voted off the Hall of Fame’s board of directors, with the only dissenting vote cast by Springsteen’s manager and former Rolling Stone writer Jon Landau.

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