Jann Wenner event in Montclair is canceled after offensive interview

by JAY LUSTIG
wenner canceled

The cover of Jann Wenner’s book, “The Masters.”

Jann Wenner — who generated a lot of online discussion yesterday and today after a New York Times interview with him was published, in which he denigrated Black and female musicians — had been planning to promote his new book, “The Masters: Conversations with Dylan, Lennon, Jagger, Townshend, Garcia, Bono, Springsteen” at a Sept. 28 event at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Montclair. But the event has now been cancelled.

The Montclair Literary Festival has confirmed that it, and not Wenner, was responsible for cancelling the event, but will not give the cause of the cancellation beyond saying it was for “a few reasons.”

The interview subjects in the book — Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Mick Jagger, Pete Townshend, Jerry Garcia, Bono and Bruce Springsteen — are all white males. In the Times interview, Wenner was asked about this and said: “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.”

When the interviewer, David Marchese, pushed him on the point by mentioning Joni Mitchell, Wenner responded, “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.”

Wenner was just as offensive when discussing Black artists. “You know, Stevie Wonder, genius, right?” he said. ‘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.”

People like Jagger and Townshend, he said, represented “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.”

Later, he made things worse by saying, “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.”

Also, Wenner discussed, in the interview, a 2014 Rolling Stone article headlined “A Rape on Campus,” which was about a gang rape at a University of Virginia fraternity that turned out to be fabricated, with Rolling Stone being successfully sued in the aftermath. Wenner said, “Other than this one key fact that the rape described actually was a fabrication of this woman, the rest of the story was bulletproof.”

Proceeds from the Montclair event had been scheduled to go to the Montclair Literary Festival’s parent organization, Succeed2gether, which provides free enrichment and academic programs to children and families in need from Montclair and Essex County.

Ticketholders will receive a refund.

Future Montclair Literary Festival events will include Colson Whitehead discussing his novel “Crook Manifesto,” Sept. 23 at the First Congregational Church in Montclair (visit bit.ly/ColsonSept23; and former U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith discussing her “To Free the Captives: A Plea for the American Soul,” Nov. 16 at Montclair State University (visit bit.ly/TracyKSmith1116).

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