As co-founder of Rolling Stone Magazine, Jann Wenner published the first major interviews with dozens of top rock stars of the 1960s and launched the careers of generations of journalists, musicians and photographers.
AT 77, Wenner recently published a memoir, Like a Rolling Stone, which covers the launch of the magazine and the music, politics, lifestyle, and cultural change that swept America during the 1960s and beyond.
In conversation with writer author and music critic Greil Marcus last week, Wenner looked back on his time as a student at UC Berkeley, where he met Marcus and participated in the Free Speech Movement.
“The soil of Berkeley gave birth to this,” Wenner said during The Chris Boskin Deans’ Speaker Series in Business and Journalism talk. “Part drugs, part music, part student – it was out of this consciousness.”
Running a groundbreaking publication brought its share of organizational challenges, Wenner said.
“Our main task in the first 15 to 20 years was learning how to be a business and how to manage growth,” Wenner said. “Our growth was rapid. We had no experience. Anything that you did that was wrong, you don’t learn from, you just move on. It leads you, obviously, into making some pretty dumb moves and mistakes, thinking you’re better than you are.”
Rolling Stone helped pioneer narrative journalism when two of the magazine’s reporters, Hunter S. Thompson and Timothy Crouse, eschewed conventional reporting during the 1972 presidential race between George McGovern and Richard Nixon.
“We did something so brilliant and exceptional that it changed journalism forever and put Rolling Stone up into the first rank of American publications,” said Wenner.
Wenner also published Outside, US Weekly, Family Life, and Men’s Journal, and co-founded the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.