Jann Wenner Memoir, ‘Like a Rolling Stone,’ Shares Stories of Mick, Dylan, Bruce

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There was a time for many members of the rock and roll generation when they eagerly awaited a new issue of Rolling Stone, every two weeks, to read interviews with and album reviews of their favorite recording artists. The publication also made household names of such writers as Hunter S. Thompson, Cameron Crowe and Ben Fong-Torres. Now, Jann Wenner, the magazine’s co-founder, co-editor and publisher, has written his memoir. Like a Rolling Stone: A Memoir arrived Sept. 13, 2022, via Little, Brown and Company.

An excerpt appeared in the Aug.-Sept. issue of AARP Magazine. In it, Wenner recalls various get-togethers with Pete Townshend, Bruce Springsteen, David Bowie, Mick Jagger and more. The first time he met Jagger was in 1968. “I sat at the mixing board between Glyn [Johns] and Mick,” he recalls, “and suddenly out of this supersonic sound system came ‘Street Fighting Man.’ They played it again and again as they mixed it, stunning on first listen, absolutely incredible as the song became more familiar. Then Mick stopped the mixing and told me he had finished one more, and would I like to hear it? It was ‘Sympathy for the Devil.’”

Pete Townshend and Jann Wenner, NYC, Oct. 2012 (Photo © Greg Brodsky)

Wenner has remained close with Townshend for decades. One night after The Who played the Fillmore, the pair met at Wenner’s home. “We mostly talked about the history of The Who and their future. Pete said, ‘We have been talking about doing an opera called Deaf, Dumb and Blind Boy, and the hero is played by The Who. We want to create the feeling that when you listen to the music you can actually become aware of the boy. He sees things as vibrations, which we translate as music.’ Pete told me later that this was the first time he had articulated the concept for Tommy.”

The publisher describes a meeting with Dylan in the ’60s at a New York hotel. “Do you think you’ve played any role in the change of popular music in the last four years?” Dylan’s replay was brief. “I hope not.”

“Well, a lot of people say you have.”

“Well, you know, I’m not one to argue,” said Dylan. “I don’t want to make anyone worry about it, but boy, if I could ease someone’s mind, I’d be the first one to do it. I want to lighten every load. Straighten out every burden. I don’t want anybody to be hung up… especially over me or anything I do.”

From the book’s June announcement: Wenner has been called by his peers “the greatest editor of his generation.” His deeply personal memoir vividly describes and brings you inside the music, the politics, and the lifestyle of a generation, an epoch of cultural change that swept America and beyond. Wenner was instrumental in the careers of Hunter S. Thompson, Tom Wolfe and Annie Leibovitz. His journey took him to the Oval Office with his legendary interviews with Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. From Jerry Garcia to the Dalai Lama, Aretha Franklin to Greta Thunberg, the people Wenner chose to be seen and heard in the pages of Rolling Stone tried to change American culture, values and morality.

Photo montage of Jann Wenner and Bruce Springsteen via 92NY.org

Springsteen will interview Wenner at New York’s 92NY on Sept. 13 at 7 p.m. Though in-person tickets are sold-out, it will be live streamed. Click here for details and to purchase tickets.

Wenner sold his remaining ownership in the magazine in 2017. His son, Gus Wenner, is its CEO. Jann Wenner’s role became marginalized and soon he was out. Earlier this year, Gus said the magazine and its mostly digital readership had its most profitable year “in two decades.” In an extensive interview with The New York Times‘ Maureen Dowd, published on Sept. 10, Jann Wenner acknowledged, “I don’t read Rolling Stone that much. It’s about people I’m not personally interested in. I don’t really care for K-pop. I don’t really know who Cardi B is.”

Wenner was the subject of a 2017 biography, Sticky Fingers: The Life and Times of Jann Wenner and Rolling Stone Magazine. A reviewer for Best Classic Bands described it as “an ambitious, dishy, well-written biography, with a backstory worthy of its subject. While not an authorized biography, it was produced with Wenner’s cooperation, but he has been quite vocal about his dissatisfaction with the completed book.

“It’s easy to understand why. The Jann Wenner who barrels his way through Sticky Fingers is a mercurial, impulsive, drugged-out, social-climbing (or, to be less charitable, starfucking) genius/savant.”

Wenner was born in New York City and raised in San Francisco and Marin County. He founded Rolling Stone in 1967. Over the ensuing decades, Rolling Stone was instrumental in launching the careers of many groundbreaking journalists and photographers. Wenner also founded and published Outside, US Weekly, Family Life, and Men’s Journal. Wenner is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which he co-founded, and the youngest inductee in the American Society of Magazine Editors Hall of Fame. He turned 75 on Jan. 7, 2022.

Watch Atlantic Records’ co-founder Ahmet Ertegun and Mick Jagger induct Jann Wenner into the Rock Hall

Best Classic Bands Staff

11 Comments so far

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  1. JCB
    #1 JCB 25 June, 2022, 08:01

    Jann has single handedly tainted the R+R Hall. Imagine Eminem being inducted before Paul Rodgers, by his peers considered one of best front men in rock history. Allowing no talented hip hop / rappers in before legendary bands / acts like ELP, Johnny Rivers, The Guess Who, Jethro Tull etc. Keeping singer / songwriters out like Warren Zevon, George Michael, Bryan Adams while allowing one hit wonders in like Percy Sledge. Nobody can name one song of his but “When A Man Loves A Woman”. He has ruined the mistake by the lake. His legacy is that of a guy more interested in money than the legacy of real R+R.

    Reply this comment
    • bwg
      bwg 27 August, 2022, 04:18

      He has nothing to do with the HOF anymore. The artists in (pretty much) nominate and then vote at this point

      Reply this comment
      • Jeff Tamarkin
        Jeff Tamarkin 27 August, 2022, 07:45

        That is incorrect. You can see the list of people who currently comprise the nominating committee here:
        They are mostly people involved with the music industry in one capacity of another. After they make their annual nominations, the nominees are voted on by a larger group of several hundred people. That does include the living inductees but again, many of the voters are people in media, record companies, management, etc.
        You are correct that Wenner is no longer involved, however.

        Reply this comment
  2. Billy K.
    #2 Billy K. 27 June, 2022, 00:25

    Yes, RS always did have politics in it, without question, since the very beginning. Because of that, I would prefer reading other publications that had more music in it. Still would occasionally pick up a copy of RS. Up until maybe 20-25 years ago. Then there was virtually nothing worth reading since. And don’t get me started on the Hall of Fame……..

    Reply this comment
  3. JennyB
    #3 JennyB 5 July, 2022, 03:16

    I can’t imagine a more yawn-inducing memoir.

    Reply this comment
  4. samthesham
    #4 samthesham 18 August, 2022, 05:59

    Rolling Stone was during the rags 1967-79 years on the cutting edge of counterculture idealism, music & politics but since then nothing has interested me in a magazine & its creator continued fall from grace furthermore MC5 & New York Dolls omission from The House that Jann built is a bonafide rock and roll travesty

    Reply this comment
  5. Andrew
    #5 Andrew 19 August, 2022, 10:17

    I haven’t bought a RS since John Lennon was murdered.

    Reply this comment
  6. Da Mick
    #6 Da Mick 19 August, 2022, 10:59

    While I’ve read Jeff’s fascinating writeups about his own experiences with both, im still left wondering, as they’re two completely separate entities, what exactly is the correlation between Wenner’s seriously tainted RRHOF ruling committee and the museum in Cleveland that appears to enshrine whatever it wants to?

    Reply this comment
    • Jeff Tamarkin
      Jeff Tamarkin 19 August, 2022, 17:55

      They’re both part of the same institution but they have different functions. Sometimes they do correlate and sometimes not. The museum in Cleveland exhibits many artifacts from artists who have not been inducted and never will be. They set aside one room where they display the names of the inductees but otherwise it’s a music museum that sort of focuses on rock. The nominating committee that chooses artists to be voted on for induction is based in NYC. They really pay very little attention to what the Cleveland facility does and set their own criteria as far as who they deem worthy. Even if the museum were to have a huge celebration of The Monkees, hypothetically speaking, that doesn’t mean the nominating committee is any closer to giving them a vote.

      Reply this comment
  7. davhop63
    #7 davhop63 22 August, 2022, 00:12

    I used to love each issue of Rolling Stone magazine and was a subscribed for slightly over 40 years…..Somehow the magazine changed…well of course it did and was basically a “pop music rag”….I began to resent it…and thought well I’m old and have outgrown the magazine etc. I quit subscribing when it got to be nothing more than a pamphlet and then a monthly magazine….As for the RRHOF Museum…it is a museum of rock artifacts and have been there several times….it will always have people dissatisfied with the majority of the inductees and that their favorites are NOT inducted…Other than the pricey cafes within, I have enjoyed each visit over the years.

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  8. number6
    #8 number6 14 September, 2022, 19:19

    I lived to read Rolling Stone as a kid. The 60’s and a lot of the 70’s issues were great. Sometime In the 1980’s I started getting disenchanted with it when I realized Jann hated prog rock, and that Pink Floyd was purposefully being ignored (they only got a cover story AFTER they broke up.) They hated CAN, Tangerine Dream, Yes, Rick Wakemann, etc… And then they got so political, in a bad way, I couldn’t stomach them anymore. Somewhere on his journey Wenner lost his soul…

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