Rolling Stone founder falls out with biographer over candid life story
Jann Wenner, whose magazine charted pop music and culture since the 60s, gave Joe Hagan full access but is unhappy with the result, especially the sexual stuff
The relationship between biographer and subject can be notoriously tricky, filled with undefined expectations. But rarely does it come apart as dramatically as it has between Rolling Stone founder Jann Wenner and the writer of his life, Joe Hagan.
In 2013, Wenner, gave Hagan full access to his archive and circle of friends among them Paul McCartney, Bono, Mick Jagger, Bruce Springsteen and scores of other stars. Hagan insisted the book should nonetheless be unauthorized, in order to give him freedom to tell the story he found. Wenner agreed to read it only when it was completed. Four years later the biography is about to hit the shelves and, the New York Times reported, Wenner feels betrayed.
In his first statement on the matter, issued this week, Wenner said that instead of producing the nuanced portrait about my life and the culture Rolling Stone chronicled he had hoped for, Hagan had produced something deeply flawed and tawdry, rather than substantial.
Hagan called the 71-year-old publishers reaction somewhat predictable.
He doesnt really think about the finer points of his history in the way that I discovered it through my research, the author told WWD. I knew this book was going to be hard for him. Because if you tell the true story, its hard.
Sticky Fingers offers a fascinating insight into the relationship between Wenner, his writers and some of the most storied musicians and celebrities of the late 20th century.
Jann is a very complicated guy, Hagan told WWD. He has been brilliant in his life but he is unvarnished and thats not always great for him. But I knew that I had to get the real story.
In his telling, that story offers a riveting insight into the machinations of celebrity, the entertainment industry and the post-60s cultural and economic boom among to quote Tom Wolfe the first generation to have the money, the personal freedom and the free time to build monuments and pleasure palaces to their own tastes.
Through it all, Hagan writes, Jann Wenner cast himself as indeed was the gatekeeper of the rocknroll story.
It was his schizophrenic nature a polarity of vulnerabilityand rageful ambition that drove the magazine. He was an antiwar liberal and a rapacious capitalist, naive and crafty, friend and enemy, straight and gay, editor and publisher.
Wenner, who recently put Rolling Stone up for sale, regrets giving Hagan independence. But he has done readers a favour. The books emphasis on Wenners bisexuality, for example, comes in a moment of new willingness to review how deeply the aesthetics of gay rock managers helped to shape the genre. Its also the primary reason he is known to hate it.