In a recent interview with The New York Times, Rolling Stone founder Jann Wenner stirred controversy with his exclusionary comments regarding Black and female musicians in his upcoming book, “The Masters.” The comments led to widespread criticism and condemnation, and the Black Music Action Coalition (BMAC) did not mince words in expressing their outrage.
Wenner’s Controversial Comments
During the interview, Jann Wenner remarked that Black and female musicians “didn’t articulate at the level” of their white male counterparts, an assertion that immediately sparked outrage and accusations of erasure. His comments implied that the contributions of Black and female artists were somehow inferior or less significant, a perspective that BMAC vehemently rejected.
BMAC’s Response: “An Offensive and Absurd Erasure”
The Black Music Action Coalition, founded in 2020 during the wave of protests against police brutality and systemic racism, issued a powerful statement condemning Wenner’s remarks. They characterized his comments as “an offensive and absurd erasure” of the immense contributions made by Black and female musicians to the world of music.
Acknowledging the Monumental Contributions
BMAC emphasized the pivotal role that Black artists have played in shaping the music industry. They pointed out that Black musicians have made monumental contributions that have had an immeasurable influence on the art form. Despite these contributions, Black artists have often faced racism and prejudice that undermine their value.
The True Masters of Music
In their statement, BMAC emphasized that the true masters of music include the Black creators of the rock and roll genre. They underlined the fact that countless artists have been touched and influenced by these trailblazers, and it is essential to recognize and celebrate their creativity and genius.
Vernon Reid and Others Speak Out
Vernon Reid, the guitarist for Living Colour, was among the prominent voices criticizing Wenner’s comments. He expressed his gratitude that Wenner had “said the quiet part out loud.” Reid highlighted several artists, including Joni Mitchell, Chrissie Hynde, and Meshell Ndegeocello, who are equally deserving of recognition as the men featured in Wenner’s book.
Impact on the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame
The fallout from Wenner’s comments extended to his role on the Board of Directors of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation. Wenner, who co-founded the Rock Hall, was removed from the board in an emergency meeting just one day after the controversial interview was published. The Rock Hall’s current chairman, John Sykes, orchestrated the removal amid concerns that Wenner’s comments could undermine the institution’s credibility.
Following the backlash, Wenner issued an apology, acknowledging that his comments had diminished the contributions, genius, and impact of Black and women artists. He clarified that his book aimed to represent high points in his career and interviews that illustrated his personal experiences rather than the entirety of music history.
Rolling Stone’s Response
Rolling Stone, the publication Wenner co-founded, also issued a statement distancing itself from his comments. They emphasized that Wenner had not been directly involved in their operations since 2019. Rolling Stone reaffirmed its commitment to representing diverse voices and experiences in music, underlining the unifying power of music.
In conclusion, Jann Wenner’s exclusionary comments regarding Black and female musicians in his upcoming book “The Masters” have been met with strong criticism and backlash from BMAC, artists, and the music industry at large. The incident underscores the ongoing need to recognize and celebrate the contributions of Black and female artists, who have played an integral role in shaping the world of music.