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Interview with Human Rights Lawyer and Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi; Interview with "My People" Author and Journalist Charlayne Hunter-Gault; Interview with "Like a Rolling Stone: A Memoir" Author and Rolling Stone Co-Founder Jann Wenner; Interview with Photographer Tyler Mitchell. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired November 25, 2022 - 13:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. And welcome to "Amanpour." Here's what's coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHIRIN EBADI, HUMAN RIGHTS LAWYER AND NOBEL LAUREATE (through translator): Democracy will only come to Iran if we women succeed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Iranian women keep risking their lives to fight for their rights. Lawyer and Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi tells me whether this civil
rights uprising will actually spark real change. Plus.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT, AUTHOR, "MY PEOPLE" AND JOURNALIST: There have been challenges throughout our history, and yet we have overcome.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Amid America's battle for civil rights, she was the first female student to desegregate the University of Georgia. Now, journalist Charlayne
Hunter-Gault shares her five decades of writing about black lives in "My People".
And, Jann Wenner, the founder of "Rolling Stone Magazine", takes Walter Isaacson behind the music and the glittering rise of rock and roll.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
And tonight, we take a deep dive into the global struggle for civil rights, from the United States to Iran. What, if anything, has been learned from
movements of the past? And our today's protest leading to significant change? Women, and their male allies in the Islamic Republic sure hope so.
Females have been at the forefront following the death of one of their own three weeks ago.
In a country intimate for crushing dissent, these women are trying to force authorities to pay attention to their demands, sometimes at their own
peril. Correspondent Jomana Karadsheh reports.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): This is Nica Shaku Rami (ph), one of the thousands of young Iranians who took to
the streets on September 20th. But Nica never made it back home. She disappeared. 10 days later, her parents found her, a lifeless body at the
morgue of a detention center in Tehran. Nica's (ph) aunt spoke out in BBC Persia interview.
I was in contact with her until 7:00 p.m. on September 20th. Her friends said Nica (ph) put a story on Instagram to show she had burned her head
scarf and she said to her friend, she was running away because security agents were after her. That was the last contact of her.
According to her aunt, Nica's (ph) phone was switched off and her social media accounts deactivated.
At the morgue, they showed a body. They only allowed her mother and her brother to identify the face. They were not allowed to unzip the cover to
see the torso.
While the circumstances of her death remain unclear, human rights groups have documented the brutal force used against protesters. Iranian security
forces have dragged unveiled women by their hair, with some also reported sexually reported according to Amnesty International. Iranian state media
released this CCTV video that investigators say shows Nica (ph) going into a building, possibly following from it later. They say they've arrested
eight workers who are there.
Authorities say there's no evidence the teenager was killed by police. Prosecutors say they've launched an investigation into her death. That
comes just weeks after Mahsa Amini collapsed and died in Morality Police custody.
Amini's family say doctors told them she had head trauma and believed she was beaten to death. Police said the 22-year-old died of a heart attack.
They deny any wrongdoing. And it's been nearly three weeks since that investigation was announced.
At Nica's (ph) funeral, this mourner cries, today was your birthday. Congratulations on your martyrdom (ph). Nica Shaku Rami (ph) was buried on
what would have been her 17th birthday.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Jomana Karadsheh reporting there. And Human Rights Watch says the Iranian authorities have crackdown with live fire and rubber bullets.
Using things like Kalashnikovs and also handguns. So how much of an actual threat do these protests actively pose to the regime? And how can the women
finally get justice?
I discussed these issues with my first guest tonight, Shirin Ebadi. She was Iran's first female presiding judge. But was demoted following the 1979
revolution. But she kept advocating for women and human rights, leading to actual legal reforms in Iran.
And in 2003, she became the first female Nobel Peace prize laureate from the Islamic world. She told me, it is women who will open the gates of
democracy in Iran.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Shirin Ebadi, welcome to the program.
SHIRIN EBADI, HUMAN RIGHTS LAWYER AND NOBEL LAUREATE (through translator): Thank you. Thank you for having given me the opportunity to speak.
AMANPOUR: We're going to talk about something you are very, very used to discussing, and that is the human rights of women and the state of affairs
inside Iran. So, can you explain to the world why the death of one woman created so much protest that has gone all over the country and it's still
going on after three weeks?
EBADI (through translator): The killing of this innocent girl was actually the last straw for the women. And the people don't forget that for 43
years, the Iranian people have not had any response for any of their demands from the government. And the only way the government has responded
to the peoples demands has been to either imprisoned them or kill them.
AMANPOUR: Are you surprised having seen everything that you've seen in Iran, and having fought the cases that you fought in court for women and
children, that this is gone on so long? That it is women of all different, you know, there are religious women, there are less religious women, there
are young women, there are old women, and their men?
EBADI (through translator): The very important issue is that the people have tried every way possible. They thought maybe they would be able to
persuade the government to negotiate with them. They tried to reform, but it processed, it did not work. And unfortunately, the government turned a
deaf ear to people's demands. That is why the reformists and anyone else who thought that they could reform this regime were disappointed.
Now, they know that they have no other solution but to change the constitution. And this regime has to change because the people wanted
democratic and secular government.
AMANPOUR: Well, you know, the government will say, well, that's not true. There's just a few people, a few young women, you know, they've called
these riots. They brought out huge numbers of people to demonstrate for them and to support the Islamic Republic. And they'll say this is a
profoundly religious country, and everybody else needs to just pay attention to that. What do you know that's different about the makeup of
the country right now?
EBADI (through translator): It's very different this time. It's widespread. A lot more widespread than before. Even schoolgirls, pupils
have come to the streets. And grandchildren are protesting alongside their grandparents. And this is not limited to one or two towns or cities in
Iran. It's spread all over provinces in Iran.
I will just highlight one incident in Zahedan, in less than two hours, they killed over 70 people. Well, the people cannot tolerate this anymore,
especially people who have put up with this government for 43 years. They tried very patiently to persuade this government to follow a court of
reforms. But now they have no other choice.
AMANPOUR: Do you believe that this government will listen to the women and girls who say they do not want to wear the hijab? They don't want to be
forced to wear the hijab? Let those who want to wear the hijab wear them, but don't force us too. Do you think the government will ever listen to
EBADI (through translator): First of all, I have to say that the peoples demand has gone beyond this now. And they no longer want this regime
because the -- of course, hijab is one of the problems of the people. But that is not the only problem. It's the high corruption. It is the
Problems also include because the government has a -- does not tolerate the people anymore and their demands.
We have many lawyers in prison. Many rioters in prison. We have over 30 journalists behind bars in Iran. Yes, hijab is very important. But all the
other issues are equally important. That's why the people are demanding a regime change. They want to democratic and secular government.
AMANPOUR: Shirin, you -- I mean, I covered one of your main cases in Iran back in the late 1990s, for which you won, eventually, the Nobel Prize for
peace. You're the first and only Iranian, not to mention a woman, in fact in the Islamic world to have won a Nobel Prize.
Is there any legal recourse, you're a lawyer, before that you were judge? People like Nasrin Sotoudeh and the other lawyers who've tried to help
women over the last several years. Themselves have been put into jail. Is there any root in this, sort of, framework to change this, or are you
saying the only change is an overthrow of this government? This type of government?
EBADI (through translator): I am very sorry to be saying this, but yes, the only way is regime change. Because, based on the constitution -- the
articles in the constitution which have changed the regime to a theocracy to a despotic regime, the -- in the constitution, they actually say you
that cannot change this regime.
And it's strange that this constitution that was written some 40 years ago actually says, very explicitly, that based on the constitution, you cannot
change the government. So, the whole constitution is wrong. We have to change the constitution for a start. Which would lead to the downfall of
the regime and we want a regime that the people want.
And I repeat, the people want a regime change. They want to democratic and secular government. They no longer want a despotic theocracy. They no --
people can no longer tolerate that.
AMANPOUR: You have been out of Iran since, at least, 2009, the last time there were big protests, so-called Green Revolution, which came to nothing.
It was crushed. Why have you stayed out of Iran and how difficult is it for women in Iran under the law?
EBADI (through translator): I -- in a previous interview I had with you on CNN, I told you that the government seized all my assets, my property, my
NGO was shut down, and they closed down my law firm. My sister, my husband, were arrested in order to force me into silence.
The reason I am outside Iran is because my voice can be heard by the rest of the world when I'm outside Iran. Yes, I could easily tolerate
imprisonment, yet no one would be able to hear my voice from inside prison.
But the circumstances for women in Iran is very different. They are discriminated against. Yes, hijab is important, but hijab is not the only
issue. Based on Iranian law, a man can have up to four wives. If a married woman wants to travel, she would need her husband's permission to travel.
Under the pretext of domestic issues, a man can stop his wife from working.
The -- a life of a woman's worth half of that of a man. For instance, if my brother and I are involved in an accident, a car accident, on the street,
my brother would be awarded twice as much in damages than me. The testimony of a woman in prison, two women is equal to one man in prison. I can give
you a very long list about all these problems but I think this is sufficient.
Our society at the moment, over 50 percent of students in our universities are female. So, naturally they cannot tolerate these discriminatory laws.
That is why women have been at the forefront of every protest. That is the difference.
In the early years of the revolution, it was only the women who were protesting. The men were not very -- they were not supportive. Political
parties were not supportive. And all they said were, we are fighting the United States. Let us defeat the imperialist and then we will come to you
women. They did not support us women. And now they've realized what big mistake they made.
The government changed all the communist system, all the liberals. But now Iranian men have come to understand that they have to support women. They
have understood that democracy will only come to Iran if we women succeed. In fact, it's the women who will open the gate to democracy in Iran.
AMANPOUR: Very powerful. What about you? You were the first female judge in Iran. Then when the Islamic system came in, they demoted you. What did
they say? What happened? How did your professional life change?
EBADI (through translator): I was a judge. And when the revolution took place, they told me, based on Islam, you can no longer be a judge. So, they
demoted me. And they demoted me to the position of a clerk in the very court I used to preside over.
Naturally, I did not accept this. And I left and after a while I started my own law firm. And I focused on defending victims of human rights. And my
goal was to accept in -- by arguing every case, highlighting how wrong the laws are in Iran. So, not only did I want to help my clients but through my
cases I wanted to prove to the world that this is our law. And this is what it results in.
And I am so glad that you also covered my last case in Iran. And thanks to the support of the people and women, in particular, I managed to change the
custody law in Iran for women, for the benefit of Iran. So yes, women in Iran and myself, we did have some victories. We managed to change a few
laws. But that is not enough. And a I said, we still have these discriminatory orders in the country.
AMANPOUR: Obviously, the women inside Iran, many of the men -- many of the people inside Iran want to see something tangible, something real come from
their protest. I don't know whether you've noticed but protests around the world recently, whether it was the Arab spring, whether it's Hong Kong,
whether it was Black Lives Matter in the United States, haven't really changed the system. Yes, people are in the streets but they seem to get
crushed every time. Do you think this will be every different?
EBADI (through translator): I think it is different and I really hope that the people will succeed. But there's something I want to mention. If this
time, and I repeat, if again this time the people -- the government manages to stage it, another crackdown, and repress the people. This will not be
the end. There'll be yet another protest in, let's say, six months' time.
The people do not want this government. There is no way to reform this government. For 43 years, the people have tried every which way but in
vain. Yes, the people can be defeated again and again and again but they will succeed one day. And I know that one day the Iranian people will be
AMANPOUR: Do you have a message for Ayatollah Khamenei?
EBADI (through translator): The message that I can give to Khamenei and those around him is that learn a lesson from Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi.
When he heard that the people no longer want him, he got on the plane and left. Why can't you learn a lesson from that?
AMANPOUR: You're talking about the shah of Iran who was deposed by Khamenei. Shirin Ebadi, thank you so much indeed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Such a powerful and stark message to the regime from someone like Shirin Ebadi and such powerful support for the eventual triumph of
And like her, my next guest has had a front row seat to the struggle for civil rights, both as a brave participant and a passionate chronicler. In
1961, Charlayne Hunter-Gault, became one of two students to desegregate the University of Georgia. By no means did she let racial hostility stop her.
She went on to become a celebrated journalist, traveling the world for channels like CNN and PBS. She recounts it all in her new memoir, "My
People" which we discuss this one she joins me from Massachusetts.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Charlayne Hunter-Gault, welcome to the program.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT, AUTHOR, "MY PEOPLE" AND JOURNALIST: Oh, it's so nice to be with you even though you are far away.
AMANPOUR: I love the title of your book. You just out and out call them -- call it "My People". Tell me about that.
HUNTER-GAULT: Well, you know, it started many years ago and I have always -- growing up in a segregated community or society, as it were, because I
grew up in the American south. I've always been around my people. And I think that is why I approached the book as I did because even today,
although there is an increasing amount of attention being paid to people of color, in those days there wasn't that kind of attention.
And so, you grow up in a segregated community and it's like the phrase, it takes a village. Well, the village was all black people and it was very
positive. And I think that they prepare me for life in so many ways that I was able to, as you, you know, go around the world, meeting people. But
always looking at it from a perspective of my own experience.
And that's why when I did the book and called it "My People", it was almost like an autobiography. I mean, these are my people.
AMANPOUR: Yes, it's very profound. And I love the way you say you grew up in an all-black community, and that was great.
HUNTER-GAULT: The people made it great. I mean, when I first learned about journalism, it was at my grandmother's knee because she read three
newspapers today. And she would hand me the comics when she finished that section of the paper. And I fell in love with the comic strip character,
And, again, remember, this is a segregated time. And so, I was five or six years old, and I said to my mom one day, you know, when I grow up, I want
to be "Brenda Starr" -- like "Brenda Starr". And she didn't say, oh, no. That's a white girl. You can't do the things that she does. My mother, who
also grew up in a segregated society said to me in response to what I said, well, if that's what you want to do. And that was so inspirational.
And the other thing they did in that black community, our schools only got the hand me down textbooks from the white schools with pages missing. And
so, every year the black community would come together and raise money to make up for some of the deficits in our school. And the winner -- the
family that get -- that raised the most money, their daughter or son would be crowned king or queen.
Well, one year, my mother and grandmother had been all over our little segregated town. My uncle's girlfriend, who -- well, there were quite a few
of those, but they had money. And so, they contributed the money. And all of a sudden, I hear this announcement, Charlayne Hunter is our new queen.
But the notion that I was a queen took up residence in my head.
HUNTER-GAULT: So, that when I walked onto the campus of the University of Georgia as the first black woman ever admitted along with Hamilton Holmes,
my high school classmate. And they were yelling the N-word. N-word go home because I'm not going to repeat that. You -- but you know what I'm talking
about, the N-word. I said, where is that person they're talking about? It could be me because I'm not that. I'm a queen.
AMANPOUR: So, that is really a profound piece of history and personal experience. Let's just remember that "Brenda Starr" was the reporter, the
comic girl reporter. You just said that you went on to the campus first. But what kind of reception did you get on campus? Were you -- you know, was
it arms open or what?
HUNTER-GAULT: Well, the first two or three nights, the students would gather outside of my dorm -- well, some of them, not all of them because I
have to say some were very nice. But they would gather outside my dorm at night.
And one night, the second night I think it was, they threw rocks at my room because they kept me segregated on the first floor. No other girls were on
the first floor. And those first few nights, they used to -- the girls on the second floor used to beat on the ceiling. I guess they thought to keep
me, you know, uncomfortable.
AMANPOUR: Oh, my gosh.
HUNTER-GAULT: Now --
AMANPOUR: Charlayne, hold on a second --
HUNTER-GAULT: -- well, you know what I'm saying --
AMANPOUR: -- because this story is really important. And there is a passage in your book about it that I want you to read if you can.
Reading or sleeping was out of the question. I was in the first room of the duplex apartment. Suddenly there was a loud crash from the bedroom, not
stopping to think, I rushed in only to be stopped in my tracks by another crash as a Coca-Cola bottle followed the brick which had ripped through the
window a moment before. Jagged splinters of window glass and fragments of the bottle had spattered across my dress, slippers, and the skirts and
blouses I had not yet had time to unpack.
Strangely enough, I was not at all afraid at this moment. Instead, I found myself thinking as I stood there in the middle of the wreckage, so this is
how it is.
AMANPOUR: Wow. Charlayne, it's really powerful. Why are we not afraid?
HUNTER-GAULT: Again, you know, like my mother who said, so, if that's what you want to do. She would send me to Florida because my grandfather was a
preacher there and she wanted me to get some of that old time religion. But she insisted that I learn a bible verse. And the one she taught me was the
one that got me through that night.
It was, yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me all the days of my
life. And so -- and that's how our black community prepared us for whatever was in front of us or even behind us for that matter --
AMANPOUR: So, that's the important thing.
HUNTER-GAULT: -- during those years.
AMANPOUR: As you say, that's how your community prepared you. And I wonder if subconsciously that was also a connection between you and the reverend
Martin Luther King Jr. who you met some six months after desegregating and entering the University of Georgia. Tell us about that encounter.
HUNTER-GAULT: Oh, my -- yes. He -- well, you know, after I got back to the University of Georgia, they wouldn't let me work on the school newspaper or
they wouldn't send me into Athens because it was still segregated. So, I would go home on the weekends to work for a new upstart paper called "The
And so, one day I went downtown because I had heard that Martin Luther King was going to be there. And Alvin (ph) Avenue was this place where most of
the black businesses were and the black churches. And so, I walked over and then suddenly I saw Dr. King. And I said, oh, my goodness. And I ran over
to him and I got ready to say, Dr. King, Dr. King, -- and before I could finish, he said, I know who you are and I'm so proud of you or something
And I just couldn't believe it. And I was so taken aback that I couldn't speak for a minute. And then when I got myself together, he had waved and
walked on to greet other people who had seen him and wanted to express their appreciation for what he was doing for us.
AMANPOUR: It's amazing that he, the leader of the civil rights movement, you know, told you how proud he was for desegregating that university. So,
I wonder if you fast forward, you know, several decades when you became a reporter and you did cover apartheid, you know, a whole different civil
rights struggle in a whole different part of the world. And you eventually met Nelson Mandela. How did your childhood experience inform your reporting
in South Africa for instance?
HUNTER-GAULT: Well, you know, I first got familiar with what was going on in South Africa from the demonstrations outside of the South African
embassy in Washington, D.C. And so, I had a sense of how similar to what they were going through, we had gone through in the United States.
So, when I got there, obviously I had that background. And it wasn't that much different. But like you, I think it's important to cover all sides of
the story because I think that -- I respect our audiences as you do. It was not that difficult to cover apartheid in South Africa because I had covered
white people in America who were segregationists. And I even talked to them and interviewed some of them. And I respected them even though I didn't
respect their opinions, but that was not my job.
My job was to convey to my audiences what these people were thinking and why they were thinking it, and why they were acting the way they were
So, when I got to South Africa, the first people I talked to, of course, were people of color, black people. But I also wanted to see what was in
the heads of those people who were still supporting apartheid. So, I went and talk to them too. It was --
AMANPOUR: What was your first meeting --
HUNTER-GAULT: -- very hard.
AMANPOUR: -- with Mandela like?
HUNTER-GAULT: Well, you know, I had kept up with the anti-apartheid people who were all over the world at that time because I had been there in '85.
And so, when I got to know who was who, I kept up with them because I thought that eventually what would happen would happen. That they would get
rid of the apartheid system.
So, when it came time to interview him shortly after he had gotten out of prison and was back in Johannesburg, there were dozens of reporters from
all over the world. And everybody was given 10 minutes with him. Well, I had said to the ones I had cultivated over the years, can I have a little
bit more time? And they said yes.
So, when it came to interview him, he had been interviewed one person, one person, one person, one reporter after the another. And he had never been -
- he didn't know about television because he had been in prison all this time. So, I said look, I'm eager to have this conversation but he's been so
busy up to now, can we just let him have a cup of tea? So, they said, oh, that's a good idea. So, he goes in, he has a cup of tea, he comes back out,
we sit down, we get ready. And I want to establish a relationship, right?
And so, I said Mr. Mandela, it is such an honor to be able to sit down here with you. But I'm just wondering -- I said, I was a part of the American
Civil Rights Revolution. And before I could finish my sentence he said, oh, do you know Ms. Maya Angelou? I thought, why is he asking me that? I said -
- and I have to confess, I really didn't know Maya but I knew her work.
But I said, yes, sir. And he said, well, we read all of her works while we were in prison. And I thought, hello, everybody here is waiting for a
scoop, but nobody got a scoop. But I have a scoop that Nelson Mandela read Maya Angelou while in prison. Now, isn't that something?
AMANPOUR: It is. Let me ask you then. All these years later, you've been covering race in America mostly but around the world for the last 50 plus
years, or for five decades. What do you make of your own country right now? We had Black Lives Matter a few years ago. Then we have a supreme court
that's busy, you know, reversing potentially affirmative action, really challenging voter rights, all the things that you were on the front lines
of in the civil rights movement in the U.S.
HUNTER-GAULT: Well, it's challenging. But you know, I watched an episode of a series that Henry Louis Gates, the historian at Harvard, has done
about black people going back to the days of slavery. And when you know that, which I do having growing up in a community that gave us our historic
background. But when you watch something like that, which goes back to the 1800s, you realize that there have been challenges throughout our history.
And yet we have overcome.
The Black Lives Matter people are out there, but they're being attacked. And others who are fighting for a more perfect union are also being
attacked. Even people who are writing books about black people and black history are being attacked.
But yet, I call for a coalition of the generations so that I can share this history with these young people who are going to be challenged. But we have
overcome all of these years. And while we may not be yet at a perfect union, we are working towards it and we know what it takes to get there.
So, as disappointed as I am about some of the things that are happening in our country right now, even in South Africa which we talked about a minute
ago, we overcame and we will overcome again working towards a more perfect union because the wind of history is at our backs.
AMANPOUR: Well, that's a wonderful place to end. And your book, "My People", is an amazing collection. Charlayne Hunter-Gault, thank you very
HUNTER-GAULT: Thank you so much for having me. It's so great to see you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And like Ebadi, Hunter-Gault also has a strong belief that human rights will triumph. Music has long been an outlet for social and political
change. And our next guest has documented the industry for decades. Jann Wenner founded "Rolling Stone Magazine" and defined a whole generation of
artists. He was instrumental in the careers of people like photographer Annie Leibovitz and the writer Tom Wolfe.
Now, he is detailing his own life in a new autobiography that's already a "New York Times" best-seller. To reflect on rock and roll and the iconic
magazine, he speaks to Walter Isaacson.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WALTER ISAACSON, CNN HOST: Thank you, Christiane. Jann Wenner, welcome to the show.
JANN WENNER, AUTHOR, "LIKE A ROLLING STONE: A MEMOIR" AND CO-FOUNDER, ROLLING STONE: Thank you, Walter. It's an honor to be here with you.
ISAACSON: So, November 1967, the first issue of "Rolling Stone". That was a real transitional henge (ph) year. What's happening in the Bay Area in
the late 1967 period to is protest movements, the Free Speech Movement, the politics, also drugs. I mean, everybody is on acid (ph) that whole time,
What Rolling Stone does, in my opinion, is help bring together politics, rock and roll, protest, and even the drug culture of the time.
WENNER: I think that is absolutely correct. I mean, that started to emerge earlier than '67, it just kind of sprung to life. But when I went to --
when I was in Berkeley in '65, it was the beginning of the Free Speech Movement and there was the emergence of the drug culture which spread
wildly through the Bay Area. The Hells Angels were also in town. The Black Panthers were getting ready to go. The (INAUDIBLE) start. And you had the
emergence of music as this, kind of, culture.
Culture, of course, in the kind of -- form of communication among all these people, among young people, among youth people. Where they were involved in
the protesting or not. It became the tribal telegraph. I mean, you could only speak to other young people at time through the radio, through their
jukebox. Otherwise, magazines weren't open. Newspapers, films, television you wouldn't read about any about -- any of these stuff in the
And the establishment press's attitude towards music was -- it was a bunch of teenage stuff, you know, or a bunch of stuff that's kind of, like, not
very respectable, not very worthwhile. The kids -- these kids with long hair.
But music became the glue that held the generation together. And we were -- we came along with FM radio, you know, all these other mediums. The vehicle
for communication, for spreading this word out. And it was the mixing of those cultures which you just identified, together which gave us what we
now call the '60s.
ISAACSON: This book, "Like A Rolling Stone", is incredibly candid and open and honest. And even at the beginning, you talk about being at boarding
school. I guess, your parents, kind of, sent your away. But dealing with your sexuality, you had a girlfriend but you liked a boy there. Tell me
what it was in the late -- in the '60s to have to deal with sexuality and being gay?
WENNER: Well, I think -- when I was growing up, we don't really have to deal with it unless it was some overwhelming passion you had to, I guess,
be gay. Because you kept that secret and we just -- that was it, you had no choice. In those times, in the '50s, I think it was hard to remember, but
men could get arrested and sent to jail for having sex. I mean, when you think about it now, it's incredible. I mean --
ISAACSON: But did that affect you to have to keep it a secret?
WENNER: Not really, you know, you just -- I didn't have any --
ISAACSON: You sure?
WENNER: I don't think it did. If it did, I -- no -- more damage for it. And I like women plenty, you know. I didn't -- wasn't feeling depressed or
deprived. A little conflicted, a little confused, you know. There's nowhere you can really turn to for advice. There are no role models. There's
nothing like "Will and Grace" on TV or any open discussion of it. It was simply illegal and not done and that was that. And so, you know, just keep
your mouth shut.
But you made another point about honesty in the book, which I appreciate. I made a decision to just be very frank about this, and to be very frank
about the use of drugs throughout this period -- for a long period of time because I think these were essential parts of the generation, essential
parts of our time. I didn't have anything new to say about coming out or being gay, you know. But the fact it existed and it was -- that co-exist
among others was important.
And it was important to, I think, indicate the incredibly large role that drugs had in the generation. You know, from the joys of LSD discoveries, to
the pot, to the damage of cocaine.
But, you know, in the -- not unlike the '20s, the jazz age and the prolific use of bathtub gin and other prohibition alcohol. But -- and -- that was an
age soaked in drugs. And this too was a time soaked in drugs. These drugs, from my generation, more like LSD than, like, alcohol.
ISAACSON: You say that "Rolling Stone" was not just about the music. In fact, I think you write that in the very first addition of "Rolling Stone".
What you mean by that.
WENNER: I meant that I thought the music was more about than just fun and the dancing, and the beliefs and the freedom of it. It was carrying a
message. I mean, it was carrying a very clear message about philosophical and ethical message about the way we should behave. As people -- the way we
relate to other people. How our values are actually towards societies, you know.
This notion of the alienation of -- to the hypocrisy of society, of the adult society, which we were looking at. This is not about life celebrating
(ph) the pursuit of happiness which had told us we were going to have in the message (ph). We -- we're going up, we're finding open racism
everywhere. We're fighting like this crazy attitude about drugs. We're finding -- you've shunned us for a long year.
And I thought that "Rolling Stone" should be about those issues and about those things. And it every quickly began. I mean, our readers somewhere --
had been enlisted in Vietnam. You know, we're involved in all the important issues and we came out of student protests, as well as music and drugs. And
I thought, everything went together, came together. And I mean, certainly, you look at Dylan and what he was writing and what he was singing about,
and you see it all come together.
ISAACSON: Well, Dylan, he gives you the phrase, like a Rolling Stone. And he's very much a character in this book. Tell me about your relationship
with Bob Dylan.
WENNER: My relationship with Bob, I got a hold of early on because I really wanted to interview him. I felt the mission of "Rolling Stone
Magazine" would never be completely fulfilled if we didn't chronicle the life and act as, kind of, spokes -- not a spokesperson but a, kind of,
proselytizer, a promoter. I interpreted a fan of Bob. I mean, I think in Bob's work, he embodied everything that we stood for in kind of a moral way
and in an aesthetic way, and attitude towards society.
So, I sought him out right away, and within a year met him. He came to interview me. I was asking him for an interview, and he came to interviewed
me and see if that would be acceptable. It was a big scoop for us. He hadn't given an interview in three or four, five years. He had been in
Woodstock. And from there on, we kind of became allies. And over the years, he gave 10 or 11 really amazing important interviews from various "Rolling
And in the course, we became good buddies. You know, I mean, Bob, unlike his reputation in person, if he's in a mood, is a great -- he's very funny,
very personal, very easy to be with. And we have a lot of fun. We always -- every time we get together, at least once year, we have a lot of laughs and
poke fun at each other. And he reads (ph) me for, kind of, discussing Gods (ph) in magazine. Ron and I read him for doing all those awful records, I
mean, everybody knows that they're no good. And it goes much more than that.
But he's at the soul of "Rolling Stone". He's in the opening quote of the book and he's in the very last chapter. That -- the anthem he wrote for our
generation called, "Forever Young" you know, which I still subscribe to. That no matter how old we get, we remain for every young in our spirit, in
our attitude, in our beliefs, in our hopes, in our optimism.
ISAACSON: Well, the other icon in the book and so is the title of character, in a way is Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones. And they become
very much a part of your life, not just your journalism. Tell me about how the relationship evolved?
WENNER: Well, again, Nick was -- I met early on, I mean, by coincidence when I was 22. And I think he was 25 at the time. He was mixing "Beggars
Banquet", one of their great records. And I was invited to the session. He invited me to come down because I was in the same town at the same time.
And we just hit it off. You know, I mean, he's a smart guy. He's a very educated guy. A more elegant and thoughtful most of rock or roll people you
And of course, I'm, you know -- kind of, starstruck or, you know, mesmerized. I mean, here I am. I'm still a kid. I just started -- and now
I'm with Mick Jagger all of a sudden, hanging out. And just over the years, we went into business together and to publish "Rolling Stone" in England
and -- towards the end of the 60s, like, '69 maybe.
And we spent a lot of time there, working together. And then there was a crucible of Altamont. Where when we went to cover that, we had to decide
whether we were going to be objective and lay the blame among the various parties were to blame for that event, which included the "Rolling Stones"
among other things, or whether we are going to pull back from that. And, you know, out of fear from my friendship with Mick, we were in danger (ph)
and what he meant in the magazine which is that we made without hesitation.
I made the decision that we would go with the journalistic necessity and the need to insist upon our own integrity and honesty in the situation and
survived that. And then it just went on for years. We'd be -- we're social friends and vacationing together. And you know, it was a pleasure to be
ISAACSON: Tell me about Dr. Hunter Thompson in bringing him aboard, what it was like working with him.
WENNER: Hunter was time consuming person to work with. And had a lot of quirks and craziness. But I never enjoyed something as much in my life as I
enjoyed my relationship with Hunter. We're very close with each other. We were really, for many years, partners in what we were doing. His writing in
my magazine. I look at -- after he's back, he was always coming up with story ideas. People to hire, you know.
And we just saw things the same way. We had the same sense of humor. And I knew, with him, I had a talent with a voice that can mind so many different
things. You know, and also, it was funny to read. So, fulfilling.
And he knew he had a place in "Rolling Stone" and with me that was both a place that would give him freedom at length to do whatever he wanted to do.
But he was the DNA of Rolling Stone, his cover in the '72 campaign. Singularly lifted us up into the journalism stratosphere of putting one of
the best flyers of the time to one of the biggest national story there is, and usually the elections.
And it was incredibly funny. As this copy would come in and I just cackle and cackle. Just laugh. We just had so much fun together and did a lot. We
got a lot of important stuff done.
ISAACSON: The cover photo of you on this book is from the great Annie Leibovitz. Somebody you sort of, discovered and helped make into an iconic
photographer. She did many covers of "Rolling Stone". Tell me, what were your favorite Annie Leibovitz and other covers of "Rolling Stone"?
WENNER: Well, that's a hard one to answer. I mean, the most iconic and probably photographically great cover is the picture that she took of John
Lennon and Yoko together, with him curled up naked around her in bed which was taken on the eve of his death. So, that photograph's not only powerful
itself but as it -- the way it came into the world, it was kind of a death mask or what. One of our writers called it, PA Todd (ph) of our times.
She, like Hunter, gave "Rolling Stone" a kind of a style, and a look, and intimacy in power. Just shear stopping power that characterized our first
ISAACSON: One of the challenges for "Rolling Stone", perhaps even a criticism of it was it got stuck in our music. The baby boomer music. A lot
of Neil Young and stuff. And that as music changed, it tried to keep the same readership. That seems like a difficult thing to square. Getting a new
readership, losing the old readership. How did you navigate that and would you do it differently now in retrospect?
WENNER: No, I think we navigated it really well. And I wouldn't do it differently. I mean, we had a whole bunch of advantages to being able to do
this. First off with just the technology so that every kid of any age could hear The Beatles. The Beatles remained the favorite group of our readership
throughout the years. And kids can get it, you know. So -- then technology. So, there wasn't a generation gap between my generation and the next ones,
they're coming along 20 years later as it was between ourselves and our parents. I mean, there's different social times like that.
The second-generation of music that followed the Neil Youngs and the Bobs and so forth, which was like -- I don't know, the Foo Fighters, The Crews,
or whoever you have, they all worshipped openly the earlier artists. So, it was easy to bring those things and it was a great mix. We've kept the music
vital. And we used to be -- we'd have as often a cover of Pearl Jam, of Bob Dylan, and later of Jay-Z and Bob Dylan, or Kanye and Bob Dylan. You know,
Puffy and Bob Dylan or -- and the "Stones".
And the state of modulus, in a way, for many years. Only with the rise of rap or after that and this, kind of, combination between pop and rap. Did
it really start -- that the music get to be -- start to be rather different in its sound and its feeling.
But we went with that wholeheartedly. We were first and often rap. I mean, the idea that we didn't cover that is crazy. I'll bet some people like to
criticize it for it or say that we don't, which is not true. But I also judge things about, what is in the news? Given a news judgment. What are
people talking about? And people are talking about either the new Dylan or the new Justin Timberlake album, you know. Is what -- is most compelling to
a broad readership we had. And we had a broad readership and it crossed generations. And it crossed into politics and just general interest in
American culture. So, we had a broad franchise and covered it in a broad way.
ISAACSON: Can magazine still matter these days?
WENNER: I -- I'm afraid I don't think so. I mean, I -- there's just -- you can't get the audience together. Beside the young, you can't quite -- it's
hard to get the money to finance some of the good journalism because the internet stole all the advertising and stole all our readers. I think that
the magazine business itself, the editors have responded not very strategically to it. It was a whole differ medium.
It didn't -- nobody wanted long form journalism anymore or great photography, which were the strengths of magazines. Nobody wanted a strong
point of view in a -- when I was in magazines, when you were in magazines. People lived by their magazine and view. It shaped your world view. You
know, you can be a "Vanity Fair" person, you know, a "Time Magazine" person, or a "Rolling Stone" person. And it kind of told you what to think,
what to like. It was great. That doesn't happen anymore.
The short answer is, I regret not. I think there will still be magazines. There could still be some really good thought magazine. Somebody could
mount a really great photo magazine. You know, there's a fashion magazine have a place. Certain service magazines. But the general interest magazine,
as we know it, as Rolling Stone was, I think, has seen its day.
ISAACSON: Is music still a great cultural force driving our politics in our thinking?
WENNER: I think it is. The moment is different than when it fused with this war and with the assassinations and drugs and technology, on stuff in
the rise of the generation. And where it was the only method communication among the generation various parts. Now, there's another means of
communication available to your people. All mediums are open to young people and to music.
Some music is not the only thing. So, it doesn't have some of that same power. But does it still speak to the hopes and the aspirations of young
people and to its audience? I think, of course. I think -- obviously in rap as -- carry powerful stuff. Stuff that, you know, great rhythm, great
criticism, and serious important to peoples' lives. I mean, the messages of that to try and empower its audience are deep.
And in -- the pop music thing of it, you know, Taylor Swift or whatever, I think they communicate serious message to young people, to young women
about how or what love is about, what interrelationships are about, and all that kind of stuff in that same way. You know, they are so important. That
music still has that emotional power that music is rhythm. Its beat. Its dance ability. The soulfulness it always had. And I still think it speaks
very much in the same way. Not to me. (INAUDIBLE). Bob Dylan still speaks to me.
ISAACSON: Jan Wenner. OK. Boomer, thanks for joining us.
WENNER: OK. You Boomer too. Boomers. Thank you, Walter.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And finally, tonight, from the pages of "Rolling Stone" to the cover of "Vogue". Tyler Mitchell captured Beyonce in that now iconic image
in 2018. He was 23 and the first African American photographer to shoot the magazine's cover in its 125-year history.
Now, Tyler is scaling new heights with his first solo exhibition here in London. "Chrysalis" showcases the beauty of black bodies in nature, as we
rarely see them. He told me all about it when we spoke at the Gagosian Gallery.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Describe the picture, "Chrysalis". Describe the image that you chose to portray "Chrysalis".
TYLER MITCHELL, PHOTOGRAPHER: The image that shares the title of the show is the image of a young boy, sort of, shrouded in a mosquito net. It's an
image I made in my studio. I was interested in, I think all these images, not only create a world or sort of creates a mood or a feeling or a tone of
repose and cocooning, but also make the viewer question what's real or not real.
So, a lot of you are asking, where was the second ours is made because maybe was made in the Caribbean or even potentially in West Africa we're
mosquito nets would be used. And I say, no. It's made in my studio. And the reason that that's import for me is because I'm really hoping with this
body of work to present emotional point of view, right? About diasporic life. About black life, rather than a, sort of, factual one. And that the
idea that things that I can set up and create in these photographs are more -- sometimes more true than the truth itself.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: You can see our conversation on Monday. That's it for our show tonight. Remember you can always catch us online, Facebook, Twitter, and
Instagram, plus, on our podcast. Thank you for watching, and goodbye from London.