The Greatest Story in Rock and Roll

Editor in Chief
Yahoo Finance

Time to turn the page at Rolling Stone Magazine.

The beleaguered publication has finally just been sold—meanwhile a blockbuster biography of the publication’s founder, Jann Wenner, has the music business buzzing. The book’s author Joe Hagan stopped by Yahoo Finance to discuss.

Hagan writes that Wenner’s madcap, debauched and impossible career as founder and publisher of Rolling Stone Magazine is a perfect emblem of the history and blend of pop culture, celebrity and politics over the past 50 years. Though not a household name, Wenner was a hugely influential gatekeeper and star-maker who was thick with the likes of John Lennon, Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger and hundreds of other A-list stars and power players. It’s a story as high and low as America itself since the 1960s, which is to say sex, drugs and rock and roll are at the very core of it.

Just crack the book open to any page—go ahead I dare you!—and you will start reading a mind-blowing anecdote about Joni Mitchell or Ken Kesey or Ray Charles or Charles Manson (those are from my four times opening the book randomly.) To say this book is a pot-boiler does not begin to describe it, which makes sense because that’s what our country’s been like since Wenner scraped together $7,500 from family members to bootstrap his magazine in 1967 San Francisco.

Rolling Stone co-founder Jann Wenner. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)
Rolling Stone co-founder Jann Wenner. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

Now Wenner and Rolling Stone are at a very different time. The magazine, bloodied and battered like most print publications by the digital media revolution, as well as a near mortal self-inflicted wound from a University of Virginia fraternity rape story—that wasn’t, has just been bought by Penske Media for $100 million. It’s a humbling comeuppance for Wenner who once fancied himself a mogul of Murdochian proportions.

And yet Hagan says it could be worse.

“I think given the circumstances of where Rolling Stone is financially, this a good deal for Jann,” he said. “He saves the company while getting to still have an office, with his fingers in the business. That’s important to him. Rolling Stone is Jann’s right arm.”

Wenner—like President Trump, 71-years-old and born in New York City—is stepping back now as many of the stars he helped create fill the obituaries. Wenner created something amazing and also mostly ephemeral. But oh what a time it was.

Andy Serwer is Yahoo Finance Editor-in-Chief. Read more:

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