To the best of my knowledge, he’s never written a song, sung in a band or recorded a CD. Every now and then, he does fiddle
around on the guitar
but I wouldn't called it one of his strengths. Yet, without any of those qualities or credentials on his resume, he might be one of the most important people when it comes to defining rock and roll
. The magazine
that he founded back in 1967
and that is still going strong has been one of the leading forums for popular culture since its inception.
Jann Wenner was born in New York City on January 7, 1946. When his parents divorced in 1958 he and his other siblings were packed off to boarding school. After graduating from high school in 1964 Wenner found himself attending the University of California, Berkeley He only lasted a couple of years before dropping out and heading to San Francisco. It was there that he hooked up with the jazz critic (Ralph Gleason) from the San Francisco Chronicle and came up with the idea for Rolling Stone.
After scrounging up $7500 in starting costs from family, friends and future in-laws Rolling Stone soon hit the newsstands and the term “rock journalism” was about to be born. The magazine differed from that of its predecessors. No longer would the topics cater to the teenybopper and bubble gum sect. Nope, Rolling Stone was going after the edgier aspects of R & R. It would explore the drug use and counter culture and the more so called seeder elements that were perverting the minds of the nation’s youth. The first issue boldly proclaimed that it was not just about music “but also about the things and attitudes that the music embraces.” The very first cover story was about John Lennon
To prove that his mission was to cover different aspects of music and the zeitgeist of the times, Wenner went out and attracted some of the most talented and controversial people. Here’s a very short list of some of the major contributors of the early days of Rolling Stone.
Hunter S. Thompson
And a slew of others….
The list of people the magazine has interviewed over the years is way too extensive to include here. Let’s just say that included most of the movers and shakers of our time before we even knew they were going to be movers and shakers.
As Rolling Stone grew in popularity Wenner recognized that the run down offices he was renting in San Francisco were no longer sufficient to meet his publishing needs. In 1977 re-located them to New York City despite the upheaval and cries of betrayal from both emlpoyees and the readership. They’ve been there ever since.
In 1983 Wenner along with other industry giants helped fund and promote the idea that would later become the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame located in Cleveland, Ohio. He’d later be inducted for a lifetime of achievement in 2004. His presenter was none other than the head Stone himself, Mick Jagger
Over the recent years, Rolling Stone has often come under fire for being too political. That it had somehow lost its way from the music scene entirely and now focuses more on social issues and political causes. That the hard hitting controversial journalistic style it once embraced has now been replaced with something that’s reminiscent of what you might find in Newsweek or Time magazine.
For all I know, that might be true. I don’t go out of my way to read it the way I once did. But, then again, I don’t rush out and go by the latest CD’s or fashion styles either. Maybe, just like myself, it’s mellowed with age and that you have to learn to read between the lines and to discover the subtleties instead having them shouted out to you. For better or for worse, we live in different times. Maybe they somehow know that the 60’s are dead and can’t be replaced.
After all, any seasoned fighter will tell you it’s always better to roll with the punches than it is to sit still and be knocked on your ass.
Some props go to user shaogo for filling in some of the gaps