He added, “You know, just for PR’s sake, I probably should have gone and found one black artist and one artist to include here that doesn’t measure up to the same historical standard, just to avoid that kind of criticism. Which I get. I’ve had the opportunity to do that. Maybe.” I’m old fashioned and I don’t give a damn [expletive] Or whatever.”
These comments sparked immediate criticism on social media. Just as quickly, troubling phone calls and emails began circulating among the 31 board members of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, which includes music and media executives, A-listers, and superstar artists, including Pharrell Williams and LL Cool J. (The artists who are inducted are selected by the foundation, which was created in 1983, and is affiliated with the museum in Cleveland.)
“Your words risk undermining the very institution you helped build by spreading a narrative that is not only narrow but exclusionary,” Troy Carter, a former Spotify executive and advisor to Prince’s estate, told Weiner in an email to the board. Members obtained by The Times.
Interviews with four people with direct knowledge of the board vote, who spoke anonymously because the committee’s deliberations are confidential, paint a picture of the urgency and anger within the organization.
While board members were personally dismayed by Weiner’s comments, they were also concerned about the impact on the hall itself, and its vital relationships with artists — some of whom had already begun to complain. One of the messages came from Bernie Taupin, Elton John’s longtime songwriting partner, who is set to receive the Music Excellence Award at this year’s ceremony on November 3 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Heather Tobin, his wife and manager, emailed hall officials calling Weiner’s comments a “slap in the face” to recruits and adding, “We feel strongly that he should resign immediately.”
Although the Hall oversees the voting that selects the winners, careful diplomacy often occurs behind the scenes to ensure artists accept the honor and appear on its annual induction television show. This year’s honorees include Kate Bush, Missy Elliott, Willie Nelson, Sheryl Crow, Rage Against the Machine, The Spinners and George Michael, who died in 2016.
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