Rolling Stone

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Rolling Stone
Rolling Stone February 1 2012 cover.jpg
CeeLo Green, Adam Levine, Christina Aguilera, and Blake Shelton, on the cover of the February 1, 2012 issue.
CategoriesPopular culture
Publisher Jann Wenner
Total circulation
(December 2018)
700,622 [1]
Founder Jann Wenner
Ralph J. Gleason
First issueNovember 9, 1967;51 years ago (1967-11-09)
Company Penske Media Corporation (100%)
CountryUnited States
Based inNew York City
ISSN 0035-791X

Rolling Stone is an American monthly magazine that focuses on popular culture. It was founded in San Francisco, California in 1967 by Jann Wenner, who is still the magazine's publisher, and the music critic Ralph J. Gleason. It was first known for its musical coverage and for political reporting by Hunter S. Thompson. In the 1990s, the magazine shifted focus to a younger readership interested in youth-oriented television shows, film actors, and popular music. [2] In recent years, it has resumed its traditional mix of content.

San Francisco Consolidated city-county in California, United States

San Francisco, officially the City and County of San Francisco, is the cultural, commercial, and financial center of Northern California. San Francisco is the 13th-most populous city in the United States, and the fourth-most populous in California, with 884,363 residents as of 2017. It covers an area of about 46.89 square miles (121.4 km2), mostly at the north end of the San Francisco Peninsula in the San Francisco Bay Area, making it the second-most densely populated large US city, and the fifth-most densely populated U.S. county, behind only four of the five New York City boroughs. San Francisco is also part of the fifth-most populous primary statistical area in the United States, the San Jose–San Francisco–Oakland, CA Combined Statistical Area.

Jann Simon Wenner is the co-founder and publisher of the popular culture magazine Rolling Stone, and former owner of Men's Journal magazine. Born in New York City, Wenner graduated from Chadwick School and later attended the University of California, Berkeley. He dropped out, but while at Berkeley he participated in the Free Speech Movement. Wenner, with his mentor Ralph J. Gleason, co-founded Rolling Stone in 1967 with the help of a loan from family members and his soon-to-be wife. Later in his career he became one of the founders of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and has founded other publications. As a publisher and media figure, he has faced controversy regarding Hall of Fame eligibility favoritism, the breakdown of his relationship with famous gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson, and allegations that his magazine's reviews were biased.

Ralph J. Gleason American musician

Ralph Joseph Gleason was an American jazz and popular music critic. He contributed for many years to the San Francisco Chronicle, was a founding editor of Rolling Stone magazine, and cofounder of the Monterey Jazz Festival. A pioneering rock critic, he helped the San Francisco Chronicle transition into the rock era.


Rolling Stone Press is the magazine's associated book publishing imprint. Straight Arrow Press was the magazine's associated book publishing imprint, Straight Arrow Publishing Co., Inc. was the publishing company that published Rolling Stone. [3] [4]

Straight Arrow Press was a publishing company that published the periodical Rolling Stone.


Founding and early history

Rolling Stone magazine was founded in San Francisco in 1967 by Jann Wenner and Ralph Gleason. [5] To get it off the ground, Wenner borrowed $7,500 from his own family and from the parents of his soon-to-be wife, Jane Schindelheim. [6] The first issue carried a cover date of November 9, 1967, [7] and was in newspaper format with a lead article on the Monterey Pop Festival. [8] The cover price was 25¢ (equivalent to $1.88 in 2016).

Monterey Pop Festival Three-day concert in California in 1967

The Monterey International Pop Music Festival was a three-day concert event held June 16 to June 18, 1967, at the Monterey County Fairgrounds in Monterey, California. The festival is remembered for the first major American appearances by the Jimi Hendrix Experience, the Who and Ravi Shankar, the first large-scale public performance of Janis Joplin and the introduction of Otis Redding to a mass American audience.

In the first issue, [9] Wenner explained that the title of the magazine referred to the 1950 blues song "Rollin' Stone", recorded by Muddy Waters, and Bob Dylan's hit single "Like a Rolling Stone":

Rollin Stone 1950 song performed by Muddy Waters

"Rollin' Stone" is a blues song recorded by Muddy Waters in 1950. It is his interpretation of "Catfish Blues", a Delta blues that dates back to 1920s Mississippi. Although the single did not appear in the national record charts, it sold about 70,000 copies.

Muddy Waters American blues singer and guitarist

McKinley Morganfield, known professionally as Muddy Waters, was an American blues singer-songwriter and musician who is often cited as the "father of modern Chicago blues", and an important figure on the post-war blues scene.

Bob Dylan American singer-songwriter, musician, author, and artist

Bob Dylan is an American singer-songwriter, author, and visual artist who has been a major figure in popular culture for six decades. Much of his most celebrated work dates from the 1960s, when songs such as "Blowin' in the Wind" (1963) and "The Times They Are a-Changin'" (1964) became anthems for the Civil Rights Movement and anti-war movement. His lyrics during this period incorporated a wide range of political, social, philosophical, and literary influences, defied pop-music conventions and appealed to the burgeoning counterculture.

You're probably wondering what we're trying to do. It's hard to say: sort of a magazine and sort of a newspaper. The name of it is Rolling Stone which comes from an old saying, "A rolling stone gathers no moss."

Muddy Waters used the name for a song he wrote. The Rolling Stones took their name from Muddy's song. "Like a Rolling Stone" was the title of Bob Dylan's first rock and roll record. We have begun a new publication reflecting what we see are the changes in rock and roll and the changes related to rock and roll."—Jann Wenner, Rolling Stone, November 9, 1967, p. 2 [10]

Some authors have attributed the name solely to Dylan's hit single: "At [Ralph] Gleason's suggestion, Wenner named his magazine after a Bob Dylan song." [11] Rolling Stone initially identified with and reported the hippie counterculture of the era. However, it distanced itself from the underground newspapers of the time, such as Berkeley Barb , embracing more traditional journalistic standards and avoiding the radical politics of the underground press. In the very first edition, Wenner wrote that Rolling Stone "is not just about the music, but about the things and attitudes that music embraces".

Hippie human subculture

A hippie is a member of the counterculture of the 1960s, originally a youth movement that began in the United States during the mid-1960s and spread to other countries around the world. The word hippie came from hipster and used to describe beatniks who moved into New York City's Greenwich Village and San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury district. The term hippie first found popularity in San Francisco with Herb Caen, who was a journalist for the San Francisco Chronicle.

Counterculture subculture whose values and norms of behavior deviate from those of mainstream society

A counterculture is a subculture whose values and norms of behavior differ substantially from those of mainstream society, often in opposition to mainstream cultural mores. A countercultural movement expresses the ethos and aspirations of a specific population during a well-defined era. When oppositional forces reach critical mass, countercultures can trigger dramatic cultural changes. Prominent examples of countercultures in Europe and North America include Romanticism (1790–1840), Bohemianism (1850–1910), the more fragmentary counterculture of the Beat Generation (1944–1964), followed by the globalized counterculture of the 1960s (1964–1974), usually associated with the hippie subculture and the diversified punk subculture of the 1970s and 1980s.

Counterculture of the 1960s Anti-establishment cultural phenomenon

The counterculture of the 1960s was an anti-establishment cultural phenomenon that developed first in the United Kingdom (UK) and then the United States (US) before spreading throughout much of the Western world between the mid-1960s and the mid-1970s, with London, New York City, and San Francisco being hotbeds of early countercultural activity. The aggregate movement gained momentum as the Civil Rights Movement continued to grow, and would later become revolutionary with the expansion of the US government's extensive military intervention in Vietnam. As the 1960s progressed, widespread social tensions also developed concerning other issues, and tended to flow along generational lines regarding human sexuality, women's rights, traditional modes of authority, experimentation with psychoactive drugs, and differing interpretations of the American Dream. Many key movements related to these issues were born or advanced within the counterculture of the 1960s.

In the 1970s, Rolling Stone began to make a mark with its political coverage, with the likes of gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson writing for the magazine's political section. Thompson first published his most famous work Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas within the pages of Rolling Stone, where he remained a contributing editor until his death in 2005. [12] In the 1970s, the magazine also helped launch the careers of many prominent authors, including Cameron Crowe, Lester Bangs, Joe Klein, Joe Eszterhas, Ben Fong-Torres, Patti Smith and P. J. O'Rourke. It was at this point that the magazine ran some of its most famous stories, including that of the Patty Hearst abduction odyssey. One interviewer, speaking for a large number of his peers, said that he bought his first copy of the magazine upon initial arrival on his college campus, describing it as a "rite of passage". [2]

In 1977, the magazine moved its headquarters from San Francisco to New York City. Editor Jann Wenner said San Francisco had become "a cultural backwater". [13]

During the 1980s, the magazine began to shift towards being a general "entertainment" magazine. Music was still a dominant topic, but there was increasing coverage of celebrities in television, films and the pop culture of the day. The magazine also initiated its annual "Hot Issue" during this time.

Rolling Stone was initially known for its musical coverage and for Thompson's political reporting. In the 1990s, the magazine changed its format to appeal to a younger readership interested in youth-oriented television shows, film actors and popular music. This led to criticism that the magazine was emphasizing style over substance. [2] In recent years, the magazine has resumed its traditional mix of content, including in-depth political stories. It has also expanded content to include coverage of financial and banking issues. As a result, the magazine has seen its circulation increase and its reporters invited as experts to network television programs of note. [14]

The printed format has gone through several changes. The first publications, in 1967–72, were in folded tabloid newspaper format, with no staples, black ink text, and a single color highlight that changed each edition. From 1973 onwards, editions were produced on a four-color press with a different newsprint paper size. In 1979, the bar code appeared. In 1980, it became a gloss-paper, large format (10"×12") magazine. As of edition of October 30, 2008, Rolling Stone has had a smaller, standard-format magazine size. [15]


After years of declining readership, the magazine experienced a major resurgence of interest and relevance with the work of two young journalists in the late 2000s, Michael Hastings and Matt Taibbi.[ citation needed ]

In 2005, Dana Leslie Fields, former publisher of Rolling Stone, who had worked at the magazine for 17 years, was an inaugural inductee into the Magazine Hall of Fame. [16]

In 2009, Taibbi unleashed an acclaimed series of scathing reports on the financial meltdown of the time. He famously described Goldman Sachs as "a great vampire squid".


Bigger headlines came at the end of June 2010. Rolling Stone caused a controversy in the White House by publishing in the July issue an article by journalist Michael Hastings entitled, "The Runaway General", [17] quoting criticism by General Stanley A. McChrystal, commander of the International Security Assistance Force and U.S. Forces-Afghanistan commander, about Vice President Joe Biden and other Administration members of the White House. McChrystal resigned from his position shortly after his statements went public. [18] [19] [20] [21]

In 2010, Taibbi documented illegal and fraudulent actions by banks in the foreclosure courts, after traveling to Jacksonville, Florida and sitting in on hearings in the courtroom. His article, Invasion of the Home Snatchers also documented attempts by the judge to intimidate a homeowner fighting foreclosure and the attorney Taibbi accompanied into the court. [22] [23]

In January 2012, the magazine ran exclusive excerpts from Hastings' book just prior to publication. [24] The book, The Operators: The Wild and Terrifying Inside Story of America's War in Afghanistan, provided a much more expansive look at McChrystal and the culture of senior American military and how they become embroiled in such wars. The book reached Amazon's bestseller list in the first 48 hours of release, and it received generally favorable reviews. Salon's Glenn Greenwald described it as "superb," "brave" and "eye-opening". [25]

In 2012, Taibbi, through his coverage of the Libor scandal, [26] emerged as an expert on that topic, which led to media appearances outside Rolling Stone. [27] [28]

On November 9, 2012, the magazine published its first Spanish-language section on Latino music and culture, in the issue dated November 22. [29] [30]

In September 2016, Advertising Age reported that Wenner is in the process of selling a 49% stake of the magazine to a company from Singapore called BandLab. The new investor will have no direct involvement in the editorial content of the magazine. [31]

In September 2017, Wenner Media announced that the remaining 51% of Rolling Stone magazine is up for sale. [32] In December 2017, Penske Media acquired the remaining stake from Wenner Media. [33] On January 31, 2019, Penske acquired 49% of Rolling Stone from BandLab Technologies. [34]


Rolling Stone's website features selected current articles, reviews, blogs, MP3s. The website also has other features, such as searchable and free encyclopedic articles about artists, with images and sometimes sound clips of their work. The articles and reviews are sometimes in a revised form of the published versions. The website also carries political and cultural articles and entries selected from the magazine's archives.

The site at one time had an extensive message-board forum. By the late 1990s, this had developed into a thriving community, with a large number of regular members and contributors worldwide. However, the site was also plagued with numerous Internet trolls and malicious code-hackers, who vandalized the forum substantially. [35] The magazine abruptly deleted the forum in May 2004, then began a new, much more limited message board community on their site in late 2005, only to remove it again in 2006. In March 2008, the website started a new message board section once again, then deleted it in April 2010.

Rolling Stone devotes one of its table of contents pages to promoting material currently appearing on its website, listing detailed links to the items. The magazine also has a page at MySpace, Facebook and Twitter.

On April 19, 2010, the website was updated drastically and now features the complete archives of Rolling Stone. [36] The archive was first launched under a for-pay model, but has since transitioned to a free-with-print-subscription model. [37] In the spring of 2012, Rolling Stone launched a federated search feature which searches both the website and the archive. [38]

The website has become an interactive source of biographical information on music artists in addition to historical rankings from the magazine. Users can cross-reference lists and they are also provided with historical insights. For example, one group that is listed on both Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time and Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time is Toots and the Maytals, with biographical details from Rolling Stone that explain how Toots and the Maytals are responsible for coining the term "reggae" in their song "Do the Reggay". [39] [40] For biographical information on all artists, the website contains a directory listed alphabetically. [41]


In May 2016, Wenner Media announced plans to create a separate online publication dedicated to the coverage of video games and their culture. Gus Wenner, Jann Wenner's son, stated that "gaming is today what rock 'n' roll was when Rolling Stone was founded". Glixel was originally hosted on Rolling Stone's website and transitioned to its own domain by October 2016. Stories from Glixel are included on the Rolling Stone website, while writers for Rolling Stone were also able to contribute to Glixel. The site was headed by John Davison, and its offices were located in San Francisco. [42] [43] Rolling Stone closed down the offices in June 2017 and fired the entire staff, citing the difficulties of working with the remote site from their main New York office. Brian Crecente, founder of Kotaku and co-founder of bigger Polygon, was hired as editorial director and runs the site from the main New York office. [44] Following the sale of Rolling Stone's assets to Penske Media Corporation, the Glixel content was merged into the routine publishing of Variety , with Crecente still as editorial director. [45]

Editorial stance

The Rolling Stone endorsed Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in the run-up for the 2016 U.S. presidential election. [46]


In December 2009, the Los Angeles Times reported that the owners of Rolling Stone magazine planned to open a Rolling Stone restaurant in the Hollywood & Highland Center in Hollywood in the spring of 2010. [47] The expectation was that the restaurant could become the first of a national chain if it was successful. [48] As of November 2010, the "soft opening" of the restaurant was planned for December 2010. [49] In 2011, the restaurant was open for lunch and dinner as well as a full night club downstairs on the weekends. [50] The restaurant closed in February 2013. [51]


One major criticism of Rolling Stone involves its generational bias toward the 1960s and 1970s. One critic referred to the Rolling Stone list of the "500 Greatest Songs" as an example of "unrepentant rockist fogeyism". [52] In further response to this issue, rock critic Jim DeRogatis, a former Rolling Stone editor, published a thorough critique of the magazine's lists in a book called Kill Your Idols: A New Generation of Rock Writers Reconsiders the Classics, which featured differing opinions from many younger critics. [53]

Rolling Stone magazine has been criticized for reconsidering many classic albums that it had previously dismissed, and for frequent use of the 3.5-star rating. For example, Led Zeppelin was largely written off by Rolling Stone magazine critics during the band's most active years in the 1970s, but by 2006, a cover story on the band honored them as "the Heaviest Band of All Time". [54] A critic for Slate magazine described a conference at which 1984's The Rolling Stone Record Guide was scrutinized. As he described it, "The guide virtually ignored hip-hop and ruthlessly panned heavy metal, the two genres that within a few years would dominate the pop charts. In an auditorium packed with music journalists, you could detect more than a few anxious titters: How many of us will want our record reviews read back to us 20 years hence?" [52]

The hiring of former FHM editor Ed Needham further enraged critics who alleged that Rolling Stone had lost its credibility. [55]

The 2003 Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Guitarists of all Time article, which named only two female musicians, resulted in Venus Zine answering with their own list, entitled "The Greatest Female Guitarists of All Time". [56]

Conservative columnist Jonah Goldberg stated that Rolling Stone had "essentially become the house organ of the Democratic National Committee". [57] Rolling Stone editor Jann Wenner has made all of his political donations to Democrats. [58]

Rolling Stone's film critic, Peter Travers, has been criticized for his high number of repetitively used blurbs. [59] [60]

Tsarnaev cover

The August 2013 Rolling Stone cover, featuring then-accused (later convicted) Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, drew widespread criticism that the magazine was "glamorizing terrorism" and that the cover was a "slap in the face to the great city of Boston". [61] The online edition of the article was accompanied by a short editorial stating that the story "falls within the traditions of journalism and Rolling Stone's long-standing commitment to serious and thoughtful coverage of the most important political and cultural issues of our day". [62] The controversial cover photograph that was used by Rolling Stone had previously featured on the front page of The New York Times on May 5, 2013. [63]

In response to the outcry, New England-based CVS Pharmacy and Tedeschi Food Shops banned their stores from carrying the issue. [64] Also refusing to sell the issue were Walgreens; [65] Rite-Aid and Kmart; [66] Roche Bros. and Stop & Shop; [67] H-E-B and Walmart; [68] 7-Eleven; [69] Hy-Vee, Rutter's Farm, and United Supermarkets; [70] Cumberland Farms and Market Basket; [71] and Shaw's. [72] Boston mayor Thomas Menino sent a letter to Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner, calling the cover "ill-conceived, at best ... [it] reaffirms a message that destruction gains fame for killers and their 'causes'." Menino also wrote, "To respond to you in anger is to feed into your obvious market strategy", and that Wenner could have written about the survivors or the people who came to help after the bombings instead. In conclusion he wrote, "The survivors of the Boston Marathon deserve Rolling Stone cover stories, though I no longer feel that Rolling Stone deserves them." [73]

UVA false rape story

In the November 19, 2014 issue, the story "A Rape on Campus" was run about an alleged gang rape on the campus of the University of Virginia. [74] Separate inquiries by Phi Kappa Psi, the fraternity accused by Rolling Stone of facilitating the alleged rape, and The Washington Post revealed major errors, omissions and discrepancies in the story. [75] [76] Reporter Sabrina Erdely's story was subject to intense media criticism. [75] [77] The Washington Post and Boston Herald issued calls for magazine staff involved in the report to be fired. [78] Rolling Stone subsequently issued three apologies for the story. Some suggested that legal action against the magazine by persons accused of the rape might result. [79]

On December 5, 2014, Rolling Stone's managing editor, Will Dana, apologized for not fact-checking the story. [80] Rolling Stone commissioned an outside investigation of the story and its problems by the dean of the Columbia School of Journalism. The report uncovered journalistic failure in the UVA story and institutional problems with reporting at Rolling Stone. [81] Rolling Stone retracted the story on April 5, 2015. [82] On April 6, 2015, following the investigation and retraction of the story, Phi Kappa Psi announced plans to pursue all available legal action against Rolling Stone, including claims of defamation. [83]

On May 12, 2015, UVA associate dean Nicole Eramo, chief administrator for handling sexual assault issues at the school, filed a $7.5 million defamation lawsuit in Charlottesville Circuit Court against Rolling Stone and Erdely, claiming damage to her reputation and emotional distress. Said the filing, "Rolling Stone and Erdely's highly defamatory and false statements about Dean Eramo were not the result of an innocent mistake. They were the result of a wanton journalist who was more concerned with writing an article that fulfilled her preconceived narrative about the victimization of women on American college campuses, and a malicious publisher who was more concerned about selling magazines to boost the economic bottom line for its faltering magazine, than they were about discovering the truth or actual facts." [84] On November 4, 2016, after 20 hours of deliberation, [85] a jury consisting of eight women and two men found Rolling Stone, the magazine's publisher and Erdely liable for defaming Eramo. [86]

On July 29, 2015, three graduates of the fraternity Phi Kappa Psi filed a lawsuit against Rolling Stone, its publisher Wenner Media, and a journalist for defamation and infliction of emotional distress. [87] The same day, and just months after the controversy began, The New York Times reported that managing editor Will Dana was departing the magazine with his last date recorded as August 7, 2015. [88] On November 9, 2015, the Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity filed suit for $25 million for damages to its reputation caused by the magazine's publication of this story, "with reckless disregard for the truth". [89] [90]

George Harrison's song "This Guitar" (1975), a lyrical sequel to his Beatles track "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" (1968), references the magazine in its second verse: "Learned to get up when I fall / Can even climb Rolling Stone walls". The song was written in response to some highly unfavorable reviews from Rolling Stone and other publications for Harrison's 1974 North American tour and the Dark Horse album. [91] [92]

The 2000 film Almost Famous centers on a teenage journalist writing for the magazine in the early 1970s while covering the fictional band Stillwater.

"The Cover of Rolling Stone" is a song written by Shel Silverstein and first recorded by American rock group Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show. The song satirizes success in the music business; the song's narrator laments that his band, despite having the superficial attributes of a successful rock star (including drug usage, "teenage groupies, who'll do anything we say" and a frenetic guitar solo) has been unable to "get their pictures/on the cover of the Rolling Stone".


Some artists have been featured on the cover many times, and some of these pictures went on to become iconic. The Beatles, for example, have appeared on the cover more than 30 times, either individually or as a band. [93] The first 10 issues featured, in order of appearance, the following:

International editions

See also

Additional reading

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