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Jann Wenner Interviews White Guys Because They’re More Articulate

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Jann Wenner, in his retirement from Rolling Stone, is writing books. His latest is Masters, interviews with seven rock stars, all guys, all white. But he explains that to David Marchese in an interview (bold font is Marchese):

History will speak. This is also a history-will-speak kind of question. There are seven subjects in the new book; seven white guys. In the introduction, you acknowledge that performers of color and women performers are just not in your zeitgeist. Which to my mind is not plausible for Jann Wenner. Janis Joplin, Joni Mitchell, Stevie Nicks, Stevie Wonder, the list keeps going — not in your zeitgeist? What do you think is the deeper explanation for why you interviewed the subjects you interviewed and not other subjects?

Well, let me just. …

Carole King, Madonna. There are a million examples.

When I was referring to the zeitgeist, I was referring to Black performers, not to the female performers, OK? Just to get that accurate. The selection was not a deliberate selection. It was kind of intuitive over the years; it just fell together that way. 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.

Oh, stop it. You’re telling me Joni Mitchell is not articulate enough on an intellectual level?

Hold on a second.

I’ll let you rephrase that.

All right, thank you. 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 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.

Of Black artists — you know, Stevie Wonder, genius, right? I suppose when you use a word as broad as “masters,” the fault is using that word. Maybe Marvin Gaye, or Curtis Mayfield? I mean, they just didn’t articulate at that level.

How do you know if you didn’t give them a chance?

Because I read interviews with them. I listen to their music. I mean, look at what Pete Townshend was writing about, or Jagger, or any of them. They were deep things about a particular generation, a particular spirit and a particular attitude about rock ’n’ roll. Not that the others weren’t, but these were the ones that could really articulate it.

Don’t you think it’s actually more to do with your own interests as a fan and a listener than anything particular to the artists? I think the problem is when you start saying things like “they” or “these artists can’t.” Really, it’s a reflection of what you’re interested in more than any ability or inability on the part of these artists, isn’t it?

That was my No. 1 thing. The selection was intuitive. It was what I was interested in. 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. Which, I get it. I had a chance to do that. Maybe I’m old-fashioned and I don’t give a [expletive] or whatever. I wish in retrospect I could have interviewed Marvin Gaye. Maybe he’d have been the guy. Maybe Otis Redding, had he lived, would have been the guy.

About every cliche ever been used to justify including only people like himself. Oh, and he let his subjects edit their interviews.

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