I Finally Agree With The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: The Firing of Jann Wenner

The firing of Rolling Stone magazine founder, Jann Wenner from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame perplexed me for about two minutes…then I read what he had written about black and female artists, namely that neither were ‘articulate’ as white men, and wondered how such bigoted misogyny ever flourished at what used to be the best little rock and roll magazine in the western world. You can keep yer Creem magazines, it was not worth shit unless it was a Lester Bangs article, you can ditch Melody Maker, and say sayonara to Q mag…when it was ‘on’ (which incidentally has not been for quite some years) there was nothing as magnificent as Rolling Stone magazine. I mean, Hunter S Thompson was the Sports Desk Editor, and they always attracted the true cream of the crop of writers and thinkers. Then it all went downhill.

They started reviewing BBQs and TVs, and fashion rather than individuality and placed too much emphasis on pushing a certain agenda which was more about buying the Democratic Party Starter Pack of beliefs and ideals, and less about fucking fun, g_ddamnnit. Their remit was culture, music and entertainment not to preach for the new establishment! Rolling Stone, under Wenner did this with considerable aplomb, at least to start with, helping kickstart the counter culture in San Francisco in the mid ’60s, though the consensus seems to be that Wenner both helped create, and then utterly betrayed counterculture ideals in his constant quest for power and money and to remain on ‘the winning side’. HST was betrayed by Rolling Stone and ditched in Vietnam a the end of the Vietnam War, and left to make his own way safely home and this incident can be taken as a wider symptom of the rot within the organization – Wenner was on board…to a point, and then boys and girls, you are on your own, while he finds something less hot to mess around with.

But back to the horrible task in hand – confronting the fact that Wenner, a respected cultural voice up to this point, has been harboring these twisted ideas, and was so full of hubris, he did not see the need to hide his bigotry.

Joni Mitchell is a far more accomplished writer and musician than all but one of the white men Wenner namechecks in his now doomed book on the philosophers of popular culture. As for writing off Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Elizabeth Cotten, Chuck Berry and every other black artist that the white pioneers of rock and roll, including Dylan, pillaged for their inspiration and material, I don’t know quite what to say. I have not seen such blatant white misogynistic supremacy articulated in such a carefree manner since I watched a Louis Theroux special on Lamb and Lynx, those twin poppets of the sickening neo-nazi movement.

Holding up white men as the pinnacle of articulate thought is utterly repulsive. It perpetuates a culture of silencing and dismissing the rich and complex additions to music, art and literature made by everyone else who is not white and not male. The world becomes a pale stolid place, full of thoughts which are, in balance, keeping the status quo intact. But I suppose this was Rolling Stone all over – they created a new status quo of rich white men, and then sought to keep their power intact. Not only this, putting in Pete Townshend, after all the controversy over his alleged actions, and leaving out the far more interesting Lou Reed is perplexing. Even the title of his new book is troublesome, he named it ‘Masters’, if the whole white male supremacy riff did not need any more emphasis! Where there are masters there are slaves. I am cringing for him. What must it be like to be so dense as not to see how inappropriate this is! But then, I suppose, I am but a mediocre female whose head cannot fathom the white male articulate thoughts of Wenner, the ‘master’!

Yoko Ono, Joni Mitchell, Curtis Mayfield, Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry and Bob Marley – these human beings all fashioned rebellion, protest, counterculture and rock and roll. How could we get to where we did, without understanding the essentially divine feminine of both Yoko Ono and Joni? How about the rage and communing with the spirits that Patti Smith personifies? The Black Divine of Hendrix, singing about cutting down mountains, kissing the sky and commanding the elements, while playing the guitar like a superhero with powers that no mortal could command or summon, needed to be examined and included. Bob Marley wrote Redemption Songs, songs of freedom, songs of longing, songs of comfort. Wenner clearly did not think twice about dismissing the philosophical genius of Marley. The world needs Johnny B Goode, as much as it needs those hopped up protopunks, The Who, and to be frank, the wild abandon of Berry, the devastating honesty of Muddy Waters, the deep and sweet longing of Curtis Mayfield, for love and for a better future are all deserving of a place on the list.

I won’t bother quoting Wenner, to be frank I don’t relish typing out his reasoning for asserting that women and Black artists did not make the grade. It is easily found and digested as the bitter meal it is. A more in depth look at the great philosophers of Rock and Roll, should not be entitled ‘masters’, because the thing about rock and roll, is that it is the great leveler. We are all one people, one heart, and as Marley sang, one love, when we connect with music and beat and words, to move forward as a species. White men have had the reins for too long, and Wenner is the last vanguard of a dying breed of pricks, doomed to evolutionary failure, just like the dinosaurs they are.

The motto of the counterculture used to be ‘tune in, turn on and drop out’. It looked like it might work for a while, but then when a new group of white men found another source of power, they were loathe to let go and let people be. Free love turned into something hollow and predatory. The country of popular music and philosophy is no place for old white men. It is a place for new thought, fresh ideas, and to not just challenge the status quo, but to buy the whole farm, and listen to Momma Maggie for once. Dylan said he was ‘not going to work on Maggie’s Farm no more’. It is a bitter pill indeed for men to accept female power, and for white society to accept once and for all, that their con job, their domination of other races was a travesty and against humanity and decency and the right equal order of things, where everybody is given their due and their rightful rewards and the kudos deserved. Perhaps the new counterculture motto should be something a little more extreme. We need to dump it all, we need to ‘opt out, dump the old and wipe out old ways of thinking. We need to reward excellence and open our minds, instead of reaching out to strengthen the old white boys club that has a strangehold on success and recognition. They are so busy loving on each other, they do not see the truth, so busy supporting each other and the white patriarchy, that they have ended up removing the mask and letting the world see them for the vileness they embrace and embody.

Sam Cooke wrote one of the most important songs of the 20th century, A Change is Gonna Come. I challenge anyone with a mind and soul not to feel the hope for humanity embodied in those perfect three minutes and ten seconds. It has indeed been a long time coming, but you know what, I am holding onto Sam Cooke’s words, and hope that a change is gonna come. His words reach out past the decades, and entwine every thinking soul out there, every sentient being and pull you towards justice, towards a happier future, towards freedom, towards strength and power. It is not just wrongheaded to dismiss any artists and counterculture philosophers other than white males, it is also inaccurate and shows a distinct lack of understanding, discernment and depth of thought. I don’t agree with wholesale cancelling, but this fool just cancelled himself, and to be frank, I am loving it. Sometimes the bad people do get their just desserts. Sometimes the mask does fall for long enough to show the rot underneath the power. Sometimes society manages to get its act together to say enough is enough. Wenner, my friends, has dropped his mask and the denouement is delicious.

That is not to say there are not important white male writers of popular music, Dylan, Cohen and Reed are that (Jewish) triumvirate of power and all embraced iconoclastic thought, at least for a while, though I have been disappointed with Dylan in recent years. A change is not just gonna come, it has to, because these white male arbiters of thought are sounding more ridiculous and unacceptable by the second.


  1. Jeff Cann

    Well said. An opinion piece worthy of 70s era Rolling Stone. As a long time punk, I need to say leaving Patti Smith out of the book is a grave oversight. She is articulate as they come and Horses is the second best album of all time.

    1. The Paltry Sum: Detroit Richards

      I’ll bite…what’s the first best? I actually prefer Radio Ethiopia to Horses, at least most of the time, but there is a valid case for Horses. Leaving out Patti, and her Rimbaud musings was a travesty. He didn’t even consider her. There was a time when writing for Rolling Stone was my idea of success. Now the whole legacy has been sullied. Nice to meet another (older) punk. Freedom! ~Detroit

      1. The Paltry Sum: Detroit Richards

        I am not fond of the British punk scene. I find The Clash to be phony punks with too large a helping of pop sensibilities. Strummer was a people pleaser, rather than an iconoclast. New York Dolls and the Ramones, and the whole CBGB’s scene bands are more satisfying to me. I would put Television’s “Marquee Moon” higher than “London Calling”. For me, and this is perhaps not entirely objective, but The Velvet Underground and Nico I think comes in at number one, followed by Bringing It all Back Home by Dylan, then Blue by Joni…but ask me tomorrow and I might well change my mind!

      2. Jeff Cann

        Sigh. Agree to disagree? VU with Nico is an interesting choice. I can’t listen to Venus in Furs anymore. Bugs the #&%^ outta me. The rest of the album is quite solid.

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