Monday, June 17, 2024

Remember When Jann Wenner Manipulated the Rock Hall Vote? Flashback to His Now Ended Reign of Terror


I wrote the column below on October 1, 2007. It was just one of many I published about Jann Wenner’s now ended reign of terror at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In the last two days, Wenner has admitted to being racist and misogynist with no interest in popular musicians other than his “idols,” most of whom are probably appalled to be acknowledged.

Wenner told the New York Times that artists like Joni Mitchell and Stevie Wonder were of no interest to him and had nothing to say of importance, as opposed to Lennon, Bono, Springsteen etc.

It’s interesting that in the world of white male rock stars, Wenner couldn’t get for interviews Paul Simon or Paul McCartney, Sting or Elvis Costello. They wouldn’t buy is sycophantic passes, I guess. I’ve seen Wenner treat some big rock stars like absolute shite. They must be having a chuckle this weekend!

PS Wenner was ousted by the board of the RRHOF yesterday but he’s been out for the last couple of years as the CEO. I Heart Media’s John Sykes took over and immediately made vast improvements.

Here it is, from October 1, 2007:

To anyone who’s still reading or buying Rolling Stone: It’s time to boycott Jann Wenner’s flagship magazine.

I’ve never participated in a boycott — not of lettuce or grapes or anything else. But enough is enough.

After the announcement late Friday of the nominees’ ballot for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, there’s only thing to do: Hit publisher Wenner, who controls the Rock Hall, where it hurts.

If you love rock ‘n’ roll, stop buying Rolling Stone until the tremendous insults of the Hall of Fame are corrected.

Wenner’s nominating committee consists largely of his current and former employees from Rolling Stone (Nathan Brackett, David Fricke, Jim Henke, Joe Levy, Brian Keizer, Toure, and Anthony DeCurtis). But they have little say over who really is inducted.

Last year, in a story reported by this column exclusively, Wenner threw out a vote in which the classic British invasion group Dave Clark Five was voted in and changed it for another round that favored rappers Grandmaster Flash.

As one insider from the Hall has maintained, “Once Ahmet Ertegun died, Jann felt like he could run wild.” The legendary co-founder of Atlantic Records was considered the only person who could control Wenner. He died in 2006.

The Dave Clark Five incident has repercussions, however. I’m told that Wenner was made to meet Clark after I broke that story last March. The group now is guaranteed entry, although it’s a bittersweet win. They are probably not, to paraphrase one of their hits, “Glad All Over.”

But this year’s choices are a complete affront to fans of the Rock and Roll Hall. And to show how much Wenner controls what’s happening, the exclusive announcement was made on Rolling Stone’s Web site.

If you’re still reading or buying Rolling Stone, it’s time to stop.

This year’s ballot shows that the Hall has skipped over the seminal 1970s for the worthless ’80s. The committee has chosen dance music over rock. They’ve all but ignored the pioneers who influenced the genre in favor of non sequiturs.

The choices: dance group Chic, hip-hop pioneer Afrika Bambaataa, mediocre Bruce Springsteen-wannabe John Mellencamp (a Wenner crony who’s lost out on many tries), white rappers the Beastie Boys, disco queen Donna Summer and, of course, Madonna.

Among “older” names: the aforementioned DC5, instrumentalists the Ventures and Leonard Cohen.

Here’s the idea: that these names should enter the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame before such historically important and influential acts as Iggy Pop and the Stooges, “fifth Beatle” Billy Preston or performer/producer Todd Rundgren.

They aren’t the only ones.

Major groups the Hall voters deem “not hip”: The Moody Blues (simply for “Days of Future Passed”) and Chicago (for its first two seminal albums). Hall & Oates, Yes, Genesis, J. Geils Band, Alice Cooper and KISS are also names often mentioned by critics.

Also left wanting: stars such as Carly Simon and Linda Ronstadt, who were mainstays of Rolling Stone in the 1970s, have been iced out. Carole King was inducted only as a writer with ex-husband Gerry Goffin. Her achievement as the creator of “Tapestry,” for years the best-selling album of all time, has been ignored.


Neil Sedaka (“Calendar Girl,” “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do”) is not in the Hall of Fame. Neither is Neil Diamond (“I’m a Believer,” “Sweet Caroline”). That’s right. They only wrote half the hits that modern groups cover or sample. Go figure.

The late Laura Nyro, who also wrote a dozen or so hits, is absent, as is Leon Russell, whose songs “This Masquerade” and “A Song for You” are among the most covered by pop acts. He also was a member of Phil Spector’s legendary band, as were other nonmembers Glen Campbell and Sonny Bono.

Then there are the R&B performers who remain in the cold, such as Tina Turner, Dionne Warwick, Motown legends Mary Wells, the Marvelettes and the Spinners, not to mention Ben E. King (“Stand by Me” and dozens of hits on Atlantic), Stax Records legends Carla and Rufus Thomas, Spector star Darlene Love, Joe Tex, Al Green and, of course, Chubby Checker, whom the Hall denies over and over again despite his invention of rock’s greatest dance hit, “The Twist.”

Neither John Fogerty, Lou Reed, Peter Gabriel, Ringo Starr, Tom Waits, Steve Winwood, Diana Ross, Steve Miller nor Sonny Burgess — the man behind Elvis Presley — is in the Hall of Fame.

OK, just so we’re straight on why Rolling Stone must be boycotted. It wants the Beastie Boys before Randy Newman, The Hollies, Tom Jones or Mitch Ryder’s “Devil in the Blue Dress.”

Controversial Cat Stevens also stays in the cold despite his dozen or so hits and his influence on singer-songwriters of his era. And I haven’t even raised the idea of Poco, Aaron Neville, the Turtles, Gram Parsons and hitmakers Three Dog Night, whose members made hits for dozens of new songwriters including Harry Nilsson, John Hiatt, Jimmy Cliff, Hoyt Axton, Paul Williams and Randy Newman.

The lists go on and on. You can see more names at


The Hall has caused its own problems over the years. It no longer includes three categories that the Hall introduced, then eliminated: Non-Performers, Side Men and Early Influences. The nominating committee, with a couple of exceptions who are obviously ignored, is simply too young and uneducated in popular music history to select entries in those groupings.

It’s a pathetic, ridiculous situation and it must be stopped.

Of the new crop, I don’t have much to say that’s positive. Madonna is a steamroller because of the cult of personality. She’s not a rocker, she has a thin voice and she doesn’t write all of her own material. But she’s a force of nature.

There’s no stopping Madonna when she wants something. Chances are good she won’t bring Steve Bray, Patrick Leonard, William Orbit and all her writers and producers to the stage. They are Madonna.

Chic is a fun idea with great songs, but it was really producer-writer Nile Rodgers and his partner Bernard Summers who made it work as a dance group. Rodgers should be in as a hugely successful producer of music by David Bowie, Ross and others. Summers can be thanked. Chic, however, is not rock.

The rest are totally off base, given the above list. Summer was a disco act. For her to get in before Ronstadt is a joke. Mellencamp at least plays rock. But he’s a minor note in the genre’s history.

Afrika Bambaataa and the Beastie Boys: Are they kidding? Even the latter must be laughing. They had one big hit, “You’ve Got to Fight for Your Right to Party.” The former, while I’m sure quite lovely, is a record-scratcher with a great name. Each of these belongs in a Rap Hall of Fame.


And it’s not that I am against hip-hop or rap artists in the Hall of Fame. But Run-DMC is the obvious choice for an act in that genre that crossed into rock. Apart from its own music, Run-DMC’s partnership with Aerosmith on “Walk This Way” brought hip-hop to a new level and standard. No one would argue with its inclusion.

Of the two senior acts aside from the DC5, the Ventures probably are a good idea. The Hall lacks instrumentalists. But Cohen should be in as a writer. His morose style never once crossed into rock, and he knows it.

Diamond, Sedaka and Simon have among them dozens more actual rock hits as writers and performers. Come on. And Cohen’s songs have not had nearly the same impact on rock as those by Jimmy Webb. He’s also been snubbed by Wenner’s crew.

By the way: The Hall of Fame Foundation, which Wenner runs with toadie Joel Peresman, has nothing to do with the Rock and Rock Hall of Fame Museum in Cleveland.

“Jann treats the museum like a toy and has no respect for Terry Stewart,” an insider says. Stewart runs the museum with no regard for Wenner’s exclusions.

Last year, the Hall claimed to have given away only $158,968 of its $12 million war chest to needy musicians. It gave $56,236 to the museum to maintain its own archives. The museum must raise its own money.

Peresman is thought to get between $300,000 — what the previous director was paid — and $500,000.


New board members include wealthy businessmen Craig Hatkoff (co-founder of the Tribeca Film Festival) and Dirk Ziff (heir to a media fortune), nice guys who have no connection to the music business or rock ‘n’ roll at all. They’re Wenner’s friends. Famed rocker Jay-Z — ha ha — also has joined.

Former inductees to the Hall, by the way, must buy their own tickets to the annual Waldorf-Astoria dinner. Tickets cost $3,500. Few, if any, show up anymore for the big jam session at the end of the night.

These selections for 2008 are terrible, but they’re just the beginning of what’s going to be a weird ride, thanks to the new generation. To wit: Kanye West is scheduled to be honored soon by the Chicago branch of the Recording Academy.

This means that other artists will have to perform a tribute to him by performing his music. Only: He has no music. West samples existing records. So someone will have to sample a sample to praise him. It’s sad.

So: I don’t know anyone who buys or reads Rolling Stone, but someone must, since Wenner Media seems to make money. It can’t all be Us Weekly.

Until real rock is served by the Hall of Fame, please don’t buy Rolling Stone or click on any of the ads on its Web site. Then maybe Wenner will get the message that no one can take his Rock and Roll Hall of Fame seriously anymore.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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