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'Rolling Stone's' Jann Wenner on Magazine's 50th Year

The cofounder of the groundbreaking publication looks back — and ahead

Jann Wenner

Luke Fontana

Jann Wenner published the first issue of "Rolling Stone" in 1967.

As Rolling Stone celebrates its 50th year, cofounder, editor and publisher of the magazine Jann Wenner, 71, opens up about life, his experience and music.



Advice for his younger self

Don’t be in such a damn hurry. Take it easy, and think. I was very impetuous. But that was what everybody was like back then, you know.

The roots of 'Rolling Stone'

I wanted my generation to have a say in the national conversation. And I think we got there really quickly. We’ve had crusades on drug legalization, the environment and gun control. We’ve helped move the needle. Our generation hasn’t won every issue. But we’ve moved the conversation along.

Satisfaction?

I’m happy to see the music we love and believe in taken seriously. And to provide the philosophical and moral basis on which certain social institutions evolved or were founded or altered. Charity concerts are an obvious example. Sexual freedom. The idea that popular culture could so impact the political culture — and the moral and social fabric — of the country is really important.

Music of the ’60s

I wanted to proselytize for it. I wanted to be a part of it. I wanted a place where musicians could have an outlet and talk to one another. That sharing of ideas and knowing who else is out there is a reinforcing mechanism.  



A boost from the Boss

Bruce signed his Rolling Stone cover: “It still blows my mind. Thanks for all the beauty, love, inspiration and information I’ve gotten from your magazine. It changed my life.” What could be more gratifying?

Aging

You just have to accept it. Do what you can do, practically speaking: Exercise, keep limber, try to stay healthy. I’ve got three little kids, so they keep you young in spirit and attitude. With Rolling Stone in my life, we were so at the white-hot center of everything for so many years. Culture has changed. It’s all a young man’s game. I’m not that. We’re not the white-hot center anymore: the Rolling Stones or the Beatles or U2. I mean, it’s Taylor Swift and Rihanna.

Emotional rescue

Mick Jagger’s got eight kids, and he loves it. He’s full of advice about what’s a good dad and a bad dad, all that kind of stuff. So we bond on that.

The internet, pro and con

Although the internet has damaged the music business, it has actually strengthened the music itself. There are more tours now because that’s how musicians are making their money. And the music is ubiquitous. Everybody in the world can get it free. You don’t have to go seek it out, and you don’t have to pay for it.

On 21st-century radio

The Beatles channel on Sirius XM is brilliant. They play the Beatles all day long. And they mix it up with some of the deeper tracks, solo albums and remixes. The opportunity to listen to that catalog again, it’s just great.

The book 50 Years of Rolling Stone was published in May.

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