Person of the Week: Jann Wenner

With $7,500 and a mailing list stolen from a radio station, Jann Wenner published the first issue of Rolling Stone Magazine in which he wrote: "It is not just about music, but also about the things and attitudes that the music embraces."

Nearly 40 years later, the magazine endures.

As Wenner describes it, in 1967 he was a 21-year-old college dropout from the University of California at Berkeley who was "totally in love with rock 'n' roll."

"The excitement of it and what it meant, the possibilities of it … I just wanted to be a part of that," Wenner says. "So those who can't do, teach."

To teach the world about rock 'n' roll, Wenner decided to start a magazine and has said he was simply the guy at the "right time with the right idea."

The right place was San Francisco during the "summer of love" as rock music exploded.

"Nobody understood from the establishment what it was," Wenner says. "A real change in the values and the consciousness and the awareness of a generation linked to this powerful music and this creative burst that was represented by geniuses like the Beatles and Bob Dylan and the Stones and all the people around them."

Same Goal 1,000 Covers Later

This week, 38 years later, Wenner published issue No. 1,000, with a cover featuring some of the biggest icons in rock 'n' roll history.

For a magazine known for its covers, there was a lot of expectation for this one.

"There's no one person you're going to put on the cover. You can't narrow it down to five. You can't narrow it down to a dozen," Wenner says. "Well, let's put everybody on the cover."

They couldn't fit everyone, but they did manage 154 pop culture icons from the past four decades and printed the image in 3-D.

The achievement comes from a guy who grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and dabbled in journalism from a young age. He started a newspaper when he was 8, and then wrote for school papers and yearbooks.

Much of the success of Rolling Stone, which now enjoys its largest readership ever, came because it fostered great talent, with writers like Tom Wolfe and Hunter S. Thompson, Wenner says.

"We offered freedom to our writers and photographers and illustrators. And we offered a very intense creative environment where all that talent was valued," Wenner says. "It was also the luck of the draw that all of the great talent was coming of age."

Since Rolling Stone first rolled off the presses, much has changed in American culture, but for Wenner, working on the magazine is still all about the music.

"Music that will lift your spirit and lift your soul, that makes you feel good and says something to you remains the same," he says.

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