Living Colour guitarist Vernon Reid has joined the Black Music Action Coalition in calling out Rolling Stone founder Jann Wenner for excluding black and female musicians from his forthcoming book The Masters, which includes interviews with Bono, Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger, John Lennon, Bruce Springsteen and more.
In a controversial interview with the New York Times, Wenner stated that black and female musicians “didn’t articulate at the level” of the white, male artists covered in his book.
Speaking to TMZ, Reid commented that he was “grateful” to Wenner for saying “the quiet part out loud”. The guitarist called the comments “staggering, but not surprising at all.”
The Black Music Action Coalition was founded in 2020 in the wake of Black Lives Matter and the rise of activism against police brutality. They issued a statement that described the omission as “an offensive and absurd erasure”. “Black artists have made monumental contributions to music,” the statement continued, “influencing the artform in ways that are impossible to quantify, and yet, Black musicians are routinely the subject of racism and prejudice that undermines their value.”
In his interview, Reid said that he could think of several artists who were worthy of inclusion in the book, which has been described as an account of “the extraordinary musicians who dominated rock and roll, from London and California to New York and L.A.” Namechecking Joni Mitchell, Chrissie Hynde and Meshell Ndegeocello, he said, “This has always been part of the situation,” Reid continued, “of the top-down structure, the hierarchical structure of what is considered worthy of attention.”
Following the reaction, Wenner issued an apology.
“In my interview with The New York Times, I made comments that diminished the contributions, genius, and impact of Black and women artists and I apologize wholeheartedly for those remarks,” he said, in a statement given to The Hollywood Reporter. "The Masters is a collection of interviews I’ve done over the years that seemed to me to best represent an idea of rock ‘n’ roll’s impact on my world; they were not meant to represent the whole of music and it’s diverse and important originators but to reflect the high points of my career and interviews I felt illustrated the breadth and experience in that career. They don’t reflect my appreciation and admiration for myriad totemic, world-changing artists whose music and ideas I revere and will celebrate and promote as long as I live.
“I totally understand the inflammatory nature of badly chosen words and deeply apologize and accept the consequences.”