Wen­ner re­flects on Rolling Stone at 50

Cape Breton Post - - Arts / Entertainment -

Fifty years after he launched an un­der­ground news­pa­per that changed mu­sic jour­nal­ism and a great deal more, Jann S. Wen­ner finds Rolling Stone be­ing show­cased in a once-un­think­able fo­rum: a mu­seum.

“At least it’s a mu­seum I own,’’ Wen­ner said with a laugh dur­ing a re­cent tele­phone in­ter­view as he an­tic­i­pated an an­niver­sary ex­hi­bi­tion at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Mu­seum in Cleve­land, an in­sti­tu­tion that Wen­ner helped found in the 1980s. The three-floor “Rolling Stone/50 years’’ ex­hibit opens to­day and runs through late Novem­ber.

There might not have been a Rock Hall or mu­seum with­out Rolling Stone, which as much as any­body moved rock and the life­style around it from the fringes to the main­stream. Rolling Stone not only chron­i­cled mu­sic, pol­i­tics and cul­ture, but it also helped change it, whether through Wen­ner’s rev­e­la­tory 1970 in­ter­view with John Len­non, the photography of Annie Lei­bovitz or the “gonzo’’ re­port­ing of Hunter S. Thomp­son. Among those get­ting early starts at Rolling Stone were Lei­bovitz, Thomp­son, the mu­sic crit­ics Greil Mar­cus and Lester Bangs, screen­writer Joe Eszter­has and film­maker Cameron Crowe.

The com­mon thread among the best Rolling Stone con­trib­u­tors has been “ex­tra­or­di­nary tal­ent,’’ Wen­ner says, along with a “sense of pur­pose’’ and a dis­tinc­tive way of “see­ing our times.’’

The ex­hibit and ac­com­pa­ny­ing cof­fee-table book cap­ture some of the high­lights: Thomp­son’s scathing cov­er­age of the 1972 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, the se­ri­al­iza­tion of Tom Wolfe’s “The Bon­fire of the Van­i­ties’’ and Michael Hast­ings’ scan­dalously can­did 2010 pro­file of Gen. Stan­ley McChrys­tal, lead­ing to his de­par­ture as com­man­der of U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Many of the pho­to­graphs are in­deli­ble to at least one gen­er­a­tion: Meryl Streep in grease­paint, tug­ging at her cheek; Bette Mi­dler in a bed of roses; the men and women of Fleet­wood Mac laid out on a sin­gle mat­tress; and most painfully, a naked Len­non cling­ing to a fully clothed Yoko Ono, a Lei­bovitz por­trait taken just hours be­fore Len­non was shot dead in 1980.

Wen­ner was only 21 when he and his friend and men­tor Ralph J. Glea­son started Rolling Stone from a San Fran­cisco ware­house in 1967, the first is­sue dat­ing from Novem­ber of that year. Youth ty­coons are com­mon now, but 50 years ago it was rare for some­one Wen­ner’s age to be run­ning any busi­ness, at least one that hoped to make money. His hope then was to bring at­ten­tion to the mu­sic he loved and how it was chang­ing the cul­ture, changes he be­lieved were ig­nored or be­lit­tled by the main­stream media.

AP PHOTO

This undated im­age re­leased by the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame shows the orig­i­nal logo, top, and the first is­sue of Rolling Stone mag­a­zine, part of an an­niver­sary ex­hibit at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Mu­seum in Cleve­land, Ohio. A three-floor “Rolling Stone/50 years’’ ex­hibit opens at the mu­seum to­day and runs through late Novem­ber.

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