In September of this year, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation voted to remove Rolling Stone founder Jann Wenner from its board of directors. At issue were comments made by Wenner in an interview with David Marchese in which he defended the lineup of interviewees in his book The Masters in the worst possible way. In the wake of his removal from the board, at least one new Hall inductee — Bernie Taupin — used the occasion of his induction to direct some verbal jabs in Wenner’s direction.
Another beloved songwriter has now spoken up in Wenner’s defense. That would be none other than Bob Dylan — who is one of the interviewees in Wenner’s volume — who addressed Wenner’s expulsion at a recent New York City concert. As Devon Ivie reported at Vulture, Dylan told the crowd at his Beacon Theater show on November 16 that Wenner was in the audience.
“He just got booted out of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and we don’t think that’s right,” Dylan said from the stage. “We’re trying to get him back in.”
It’s unclear who the “we” is in this situation — is Dylan speaking on behalf of a convocation of musicians? Is he using the royal “we”? Was he referring to his fellow The Masters interviewees, or perhaps making a statement on behalf of the surviving members of the Traveling Wilburys? Only Dylan knows for sure.
Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation Removes Jann Wenner From Board of DirectorsThe removal followed a controversial New York Times interview
While Dylan is largely acclaimed for his songwriting, it’s worth pointing out that his judgment hasn’t always stood the test of time. It’s worth directing readers here to Lester Bangs’s 1976 review of Dylan’s Desire, which largely consists of a blistering critique of the song “Joey,” which recounts the story of organized crime figure Joey Gallo.
There’s a revealing moment in Bangs’s piece in which he talks to Jacques Levy, who collaborated with Dylan on much of the album. “Bob has always had a thing about outlaws, people on the outside of whatever side there was,” Levy told Bangs — and it begs the question: has Jann Wenner become one of those outlaws, in Dylan’s mind?
Without more details, it’s not clear what Dylan’s efforts on behalf of Wenner amount to, short of making at least one statement from the stage in Wenner’s defense. Then again, it wouldn’t be Dylan if he didn’t occasionally do things that leave large portions of his audience bewildered.
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