“You know, for public relations, to avoid this kind of criticism, I should have gone and included a black and a female artist here who don’t measure up to the same historical standards. . . . Which, I understand. I had a chance to do that. Maybe I’m old-fashioned and I don’t give a damn. [expletive] Or whatever.”
The comments immediately sparked a firestorm on social media. Alarmed phone calls and emails began pouring in among the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation’s 31 board members, including music and media executives, veterans of the financial world and the likes of Pharrell Williams and LL Cool J. (L.L. Cool J.) has star performers. (The foundation, created in 1983, selects artists affiliated with the museum in Cleveland.)
“Your words risk undermining the very company you helped build by spreading a story that’s not short, but exceptional,” Troy Carter, a former Spotify executive and adviser to Prince’s estate, said in an email to Wenner. Members received by the Times.
Interviews with four people with direct knowledge of the board vote, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the board’s deliberations are confidential, paint a picture of urgency and fury within the company.
While board members felt personally appalled by Wenner’s comments, they worried about the impact on the hall and its key relationships with artists — some of whom had already begun to complain. A missive came from Elton John’s longtime songwriting partner, Bernie Dauphin, who is set to receive the Music Excellence Award at this year’s Nov. 3 ceremony at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. His wife and manager, Heather Taubin, sent an email to Hall officials calling Wenner’s comments “a slap in the face” and adding, “We feel very strongly that he should resign immediately.”
Although the hall oversees the voting that selects the winners, subtle diplomacy often occurs behind the scenes to ensure artists accept the honor and appear on its annual induction television show. Kate Bush, Missy Elliott, Willie Nelson, Sheryl Crow, Rage Against The Machine, The Spinners and George Michael, who died in 2016, were honored this year.