Review: Jann Wenner’s memoir looks as his rock, rolling role

Sep 12, 2022, 7:13 AM | Updated: 7:45 am

This cover image released by Little, Brown and Co. shows "Like a Rolling Stone" a memoir by Jann S. Wenner. (Little, Brown and Co. via AP)

(Little, Brown and Co. via AP)

“Like a Rolling Stone: A Memoir” (Little, Brown)

Jann S. Wenner takes us on a long, strange trip with his accessible and entertaining rock ‘n’ roll memoir.

As the founder, co-editor and publisher of Rolling Stone magazine, Wenner had an unusual back stage pass to the rock ‘n’ roll revolution as he chronicled how the Baby Boomer generation reshaped postwar America.

Now 76, Wenner was just in his 20s when he helped found the magazine in 1967. Rolling Stone went on to chronicle not only the music of those times, but also politics and cultural change, from Woodstock and Vietnam to Altamont and Watergate.

The magazine soon became popular for its 20,000-word profiles and essays and bold photography and graphics. Among the major figures profiled on its pages over the years were musicians John Lennon, Jerry Garcia, Bob Dylan and Bono, and politicians Bill Clinton, John Kerry and Barack Obama.

Wenner started writing about rock music for The Daily Californian student newspaper at the University of California, Berkeley. While still in college, he plunged into the rock scene, traveling to London where he saw performances by a 17-year-old Steve Winwood, as well as the Yardbirds featuring a young Eric Clapton.

After launching Rolling Stone with music critic Ralph J. Gleason, Wenner was soon befriending top rock stars like Mick Jagger, when they were both still in their 20s. A young Pete Townshend told him about his early idea for a rock opera about a deaf, dumb and blind boy that went on to become The Who’s “Tommy.”

Wenner also befriended Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson, serializing his book “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” in the magazine, then assigning him to cover Richard Nixon’s reelection campaign. He helped launch the career of photographer Annie Leibovitz.

The memoir allows Wenner to tell his story in his own words after being disappointed with the 2017 biography he commissioned journalist Joe Hagan to write for the magazine’s 50th anniversary.

Wenner later said Hagan’s “Sticky Fingers: The Life and Times of Jann Wenner and Rolling Stone Magazine,” was “deeply flawed and tawdry” as it detailed his complicated sexual life, drug use and feuds with musicians and others.

In his own memoir, Wenner does touch on the personal, including his life as a closeted man during a long marriage to Jane, who remained an important part of his life after he started a relationship with partner Matt Nye. But his narrative could leave the reader feeling like some interesting details have been left out.

Wenner mentions his past drug use while recalling famous popular icons who died from overdoses such as close friend and comedian John Belushi.

He also details Rolling Stone’s 2014 story by a freelance writer about a gang assault at a fraternity at the University of Virginia and the discovery that the alleged victim made it all up.

Wenner acknowledged errors, including a lack of corroborating sources and reluctance to challenge the alleged victim. “We had been humiliated, humbled and shamed,” he recalled.

Then, amid discussions five years ago to sell the magazine, Wenner broke his femur and suffered a heart attack. During an operation for a triple coronary bypass and valve replacement, the surgeons listened to a playlist personally assembled by Bruce Springsteen.

Eventually, Wenner reluctantly did sell.

And just as he had for more than a half-century, Wenner wrote passionately about a key issue of the times in his last letter from the editor in March 2020.

With young Swedish activist Greta Thunberg on the cover, Wenner invited his readers to contemplate the dangers of climate change: “We will answer for what we did to protect our children and the miracle of nature and her diversity of species on this planet, when we still had the time.”

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Pope Francis arrives in the Paul VI hall on the occasion of an audience granted to the participants...
Associated Press

Pope appeals to Putin to end ‘spiral of violence’ in Ukraine

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis on Sunday appealed to Russian President Vladimir Putin, imploring him to “stop this spiral of violence and death” in Ukraine, and denounced what he called the “absurd” risk of nuclear war. Francis made his strongest appeal yet on the seventh-month war as he addressed the public in St. Peter’s […]
4 hours ago
Mattresses lie on the floor in a holding cell at the basement of a police station which was used by...
Associated Press

10 torture sites in 1 town: Russia sowed pain, fear in Izium

IZIUM, Ukraine (AP) — The first time the Russian soldiers caught him, they tossed him bound and blindfolded into a trench covered with wooden boards for days on end. Then they beat him, over and over: Legs, arms, a hammer to the knees, all accompanied by furious diatribes against Ukraine. Before they let him go, […]
4 hours ago
Britain's Prime Minister Liz Truss arrives to attend the Conservative Party conference at the ICC, ...
Associated Press

UK’s Truss sticks by economic plan as her party worries

LONDON (AP) — British Prime Minister Liz Truss said Sunday that she could have done a better job “laying the ground” for her package of unfunded tax cuts, but insisted she would push on with an economic plan that has caused turmoil on financial markets and weakened the country’s public finances. Truss acknowledged that the […]
4 hours ago
Women weep after receiving confirmation that their family member is among those killed in soccer ri...
Associated Press

174 dead after fans stampede to exit Indonesian soccer match

MALANG, Indonesia (AP) — Panic and a chaotic run for exits after police fired tear gas at an Indonesian soccer match to drive away rioting fans left at least 174 dead, most of whom were trampled upon or suffocated, making it one of the deadliest sports events in the world. Attention immediately focused on the […]
4 hours ago
Latvian Prime Minister and Head of board of leading political party Jauna Vienotiba (New Unity) Kri...
Associated Press

Latvian premier’s party emerges on top in general election

HELSINKI (AP) — Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins’ ruling center-right party won the most votes in Latvia’s general election, centrist parties were runners-up and pro-Moscow parties crashed in a vote that was shaped by neighboring Russia’s war in Ukraine and divisions among the Baltic country’s sizable ethnic Russian minority. With almost all votes counted, initial results […]
4 hours ago
Ukrainian servicemen drive a tank on the way to Siversk, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Saturday, Oct. 1,...
Associated Press

Ukraine presses counteroffensive after Russian setback

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russia attacked the Ukrainian president’s hometown and other targets with suicide drones on Sunday, and Ukraine took back full control of a strategic eastern city in a counteroffensive that has reshaped the war. Russia’s loss of Lyman, which it had been using as a transport and logistics hub, is a new […]
4 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Sanderson Ford

Don’t let rising fuel prices stop you from traveling Arizona this summer

There's no better time to get out on the open road and see what the beautiful state of Arizona has to offer. But if the cost of gas is putting a cloud over your summer vacation plans, let Sanderson Ford help with their wide-range selection of electric vehicles.
(Courtesy Condor)...
Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines shows passion for destinations from Sky Harbor with new-look aircraft

Condor Airlines brings passion to each flight and connects people to their dream destinations throughout the world.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Most plumbing problems can be fixed with regular maintenance

Instead of waiting for a problem to happen, experts suggest getting a head start on your plumbing maintenance.
Review: Jann Wenner’s memoir looks as his rock, rolling role