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Good Riddance

A Personal Look at Jann Wenner and the End of a Lie

By Kendall Defoe Published 2 months ago Updated 2 months ago 5 min read
Top Story - September 2023

This began with a message from home.

My brother and I have been sending each other messages on WhatsApp for some time now. Often, we talk about family, friends, politics, and just about anything that comes our way that we think needs a chat. The other day, my brother sent me a link to an article with the title: “Rolling Stone co-founder Jann Wenner removed from Rock Hall leadership after controversial comments”.

My brother: “Hey Ken...what is your take on this...”

I really did not want to talk about this. My problems juggling three teaching contracts for three different (very different) schools and concerns about money were all that I could handle at the moment.

But I did have a response:

It is an old story. He was radical for about three years with the magazine, and then he had bills to pay, so he went after the safe option: white, middle-class, Boomers. I had heard earlier comments by him, and anyone reading the magazine in the 70s up to the present day knows that his tastes were for the beige and boring. So sad that he waited this [long] to finally let his true nature show in public.

Finally, I appended the following:

And he has not mattered to me since I picked up my first RS and saw Jimi Hendrix on the cover (just more exploitation). Pathetic.

My brother: “Thanks for your insight”

Well, this was a surprise all around. I never thought that I would become so cynical about a magazine and its founder that I would write such words, and I never thought that my brother would be the one who would kick start this piece (he never read the magazine, but he knew that I did). I cannot ignore what has been said:

“Wenner spoke with [The New York] Times about his upcoming book ‘The Masters,’ which features interviews he conducted with artists such as John Lennon, Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger and others while at the helm of Rolling Stone.”

My brother once bought me a book on the twentieth anniversary of the magazine and I read three separate interviews between Wenner and the three icons mentioned above. They deserve the fame that they brought to the magazine and they were conducted on a level unseen before with popular musicians of the time (the John Lennon Q and A is still a masterpiece in the art of the interview).

And then, in the article, he said the following:

‘The people had to meet a couple criteria, but it was just kind of my personal interest and love of them,’ he said, adding ‘insofar as the women, just none of them were as articulate enough on this intellectual level.’

So, no Patti Smith, Tina Turner (featured on the second cover of RS), Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt (she had quite a run with the magazine in the 70s, didn’t she, Jann?), Madonna (!), St. Vincent, Merrill Garbus (TuneYards) or Billie Eilish (you can add your own subintellectual to the list).

And it just keeps getting better.

‘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…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.’

Yes, Jann, just maybe… And maybe you could have found a “Black” lying around somewhere for your public relations sake and that would have solved all of your problems. Maybe you could have been the one to interview Stevie Wonder, Curtis Mayfield or Marvin Gaye back in the day instead of one of your staff (Otis had died by the time your magazine took off, so I will give you a bit of a pass there). Maybe, maybe, maybe…

And just maybe you felt more comfortable with the white artists who loved all that black music your magazine barely acknowledged in the day. Is that another possibility, Yawn…I mean, Jann?

My first RS!

Listen: I was a fan of the magazine back in the 80s when I was just discovering music and the whole wide world of talent out there that seemed like a miracle compared to my suburban life. Jimi Hendrix was on the cover of the first Rolling Stone I ever bought, and I still have my copy somewhere in the house. But, like most things from my past, you need to be dropped and forgotten like a bad habit. Your magazine has not been relevant in such a long time that I often ask myself if it still exists when I pass by one of the few remaining magazine shops in the city (the online page is embarrassing), and your attempt to rewrite your history with that pathetic memoir, “Like A Rolling Stone,” was just embarrassing (please read Joe Hagan’s “Sticky Fingers: The Life and Times of Jann Wenner and Rolling Stone Magazine” and, even better, Robert Draper’s “Rolling Stone Magazine: The Uncensored History,” a book that was a true Road to Damascus moment for me).

No, I still do not feel good about this attack, but I think that it is only fair to let you know that your words reflect a truth I suspected about you and your honest feelings about popular music (only took you nearly sixty years for this ugliness to come out). Most people no longer care about the magazine or the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (as stupid an idea as has ever existed), but I wanted the spark you have dropped to become a flame that continues to burn. History has to be preserved and you are now a part of it.

Good-bye, Jann. You are just another disappointment who belongs to my past.

Not really surprised, are you?


Thank you for reading!

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You can find more poems, stories, and articles by Kendall Defoe on my Vocal profile. I complain, argue, provoke and create...just like everybody else.

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About the Creator

Kendall Defoe

Teacher, reader, writer, dreamer... I am a college instructor who cannot stop letting his thoughts end up on the page. Very grateful to have found this other opportunity to expose things to the light.


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Comments (28)

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  • Tom Baker2 months ago

    Man, those bourgeois mothers never put G.G. Allin on the cover, and that's what really bakes my muffin. ;-) Best to you!

  • Gene Lass2 months ago

    Good article. I just finished reading the book of the collected "Rolling Stone" articles by Hunter S. Thompson. Your point of 3 good edgy years, then selling out is totally valid. Like seemingly everyone, I read RS when I was in high school and college. I saw article from Thompson on there and recognized that he was a legend ("Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," starring Johnny Depp was a big movie at the time) but in reading what he wrote I wondered what the big deal was, looking back at the collected work, it reveals a lot of the secret of RS in general. When they could rail against Nixon and Viet Nam, and promote the drug culture they were huge. But once the war was over and Nixon was out, they lost direction, and Thompson lost respect for Wenner for a very good reason. Thompson was already a respected writer, whom Wenner courted to bolster RS, the fledgling magazine, and he did. He helped make it huge, required reading. He literally brought them respectability, only to be rewarded by being literally stranded in Viet Nam during the fall of Saigon. That's a crappy way to treat a friend, or anyone. With the advent of the Hall of Fame, Wenner started to show his colors more. Who gets in, who gets out. Well, for the first couple decades who got in was pretty obvious. All legends. But now, who isn't in is kind of glaringly obvious, and you have to question the qualifications and logic. It can't be sales or influence, or else the Monkees would be in, and Wenner stated that he will never let the in the Hall. It can't be respect. Billy Joel just asked that they put Warren Zevon in there, who worked with and was respected by tons of artists, from the Eagles and Linda Ronstadt to Jackson Browne. He got plenty of fan votes, but not voted in. Artists who have been voted in have also noted the huge discrepancy in how long some inductees are allowed to speak or play at the ceremony, compared to others. It all comes down pretty much to who is in Wenner's new book. If he likes you, you're in the Hall, and you can talk or play as long as you want. His friends are what matter, as long as it's convenient to him. Otherwise you're not in the Hall, you don't get to talk if you are, and if it suits him, he'd just as soon leave you stranded in a war zone.

  • Real Poetic2 months ago

    Congratulations Kendall !!! 👏🏼🎊

  • Macy Dennis2 months ago


  • Donna Fox (HKB)2 months ago

    Well this was super eye opening and such a well articulated article about how you never really know a person. It really highlights how people can be so great at presenting a certain persona but as soon as it's questioned and we unmask the person we are faced with the ugly truth! I love how controversial this feels, great work and congratulation on Top Story!

  • Paul Stewart2 months ago

    What a piece of trash that guy is. Shame...but...Rolling Stone isn't exactly the most amazing piece of music literature that it once was, if it ever really was. Hard Pass! Well done on telling it like it is and I agree with the sentiments you've expressed in this. Also, congrats on Top Story!

  • Carol Townend2 months ago

    I used to love this magazine as a child, but now I can't stand it. If it were still sold I'd never buy it again. I love your assertion in this work, Kendall.

  • Teresa Renton2 months ago

    Great article and I like the angle from which you approached your subject. Starting with a message from your brother was an effective hook. Congratulations for TS 🥳

  • This comment has been deleted

  • Scott Christenson2 months ago

    Congrats on the TS! Yes, its sad as the magazine and its editors aged, they remained in a different era and lost touch with new trends in our society. And intellectual essays about music and bands never made sense to me (music is encapsulated raw emotion, that I feel shouldn't be overly analyzed) so I had never read the magazine, but they did have an occasional good piece of long form journalism. I do feel if some 77-year-old guy makes inappropriate comments that belong in a different era, we could just shuffle them off to the retirement home and move on.

  • Naveed2 months ago

    Congratulations On Your Top Story

  • 👀👌💯📝😉Congratulations On Your Top Story🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉

  • Heather Lunsford2 months ago

    I remember when that magazine was a good source for information about music, I was too young to realize it was really only a source of information about the "right" kind of music and artists. Crazy how long people like him hid in plain sight and got away with so much. Great article

  • Leslie Writes2 months ago

    I never read this magazine, but this guy sounds like a real piece of s**t! Sad how someone like that can be pumped up/protected by the system for so long. Good riddance indeed! Great article!

  • C. H. Richard2 months ago

    There were times they did have some decent interviews and even expose stories. I stopped reading a long time ago. I definitely felt the misogynistic tone by the women were portrayed on the cover so not surprised at that. His true colors are out now as a racist as well. Well written piece Kendall 👏

  • I really enjoyed RS Magazine in the 70s and 80s. As you know I have always been a big music fan. I think Jann Wenner's comments are shameful and the right think was done by him stepping down. The magazine can survive by featuring more diverse artists. What I don't understand is why it was a bad thing for Jimi Hendrix to be on the cover. Jimi is one of my ultimate favorites.

  • Cathy holmes2 months ago

    I've never heard of this person, thankfully. I used to read RS occasionally back in the 80s, but haven't for decades. Congrats on the TS.

  • Tiffany Gordon 2 months ago

    sadly not surprising; nice expose!

  • Alexander McEvoy2 months ago

    Very interesting read 🤔 I never read the Rolling Stone, music isn’t that important to me, but I’m sorry to say that given his age and profession, I’m not surprised he was a terrible person. Personally I think it would be more to society’s betterment if we figured out who wasn’t a terrible person and talk more about how they managed. certainly it would seem to be a shorter list, eh? Glad i don’t know anyone with views like his, not sure they’d be up to my level

  • L.C. Schäfer2 months ago

    I want to say I'm shocked and angry but I'm so jaded all I got is, "oh damn, another one"

  • I'm like so speechless! You know when you read something so ridiculous and absurd, you're so shocked and have so many things to say but you don't know how because you can't seem to find the words? That's how I feel right now!

  • Míriam Guasch2 months ago

    Sometimes we may like a person for the work they do but it does not mean that we like them for the way they are...looking at what we have seen, this could be one of those occasions. Great article!

  • Rachel Deeming2 months ago

    I've never read "Rolling Stone". Don't feel like I've missed out. Misogynist, you think as well as racist? Not sure I'd find a conversation with him intellectually challenging enough either. Great article.

  • Lamar Wiggins2 months ago

    Whoa!!! did not know any of this! It feels like I'm in the dark ages about it. I 100% agree with the title of your article.

  • Babs Iverson2 months ago

    Have a T-shirt from the 90s!!! Wasn't a subscriber of the magazine!!! Interesting article!!!❤️❤️💕

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