Rolling Stone founder Jann Wenner is the subject of a new biography coming this October from Knopf, the publisher announced Monday.
Written by Joe Hagan, Sticky Fingers: The Life and Times of Jann Wenner and Rolling Stone Magazine is the result of Hagan’s extensive interviews with not just Wenner himself, but a staggering number of colorful figures the legendary editor associated with, including Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney, Keith Richards, Bruce Springsteen, Elton John, Bono, Art Garfunkel, Cameron Crowe, Pete Townsend, Yoko Ono, Billy Joel, Bette Midler, Tom Wolfe, David Crosby, Michael Douglas, among others.
“Wenner possessed a unique vision,” Hagan said in a release. “He had an intuitive grasp of how to connect the counterculture to the so-called straight world and convert this rude world of rock and dope into fame, power, and money. He knew there was money to be made from day one. As it turned out, there was millions.”
The book will cover the success and romance surrounding Wenner, as well as the controversy. According to the release, the biography will feature Wenner and John Lennon’s feuds over money, Wenner and Bob Dylan’s disagreements over coverage, and “secret deals and pacts” between Wenner and Mick Jagger. Sticky Fingers will also dig into Rolling Stone magazine’s more contemporary controversies, like the University of Virginia rape allegation.
Sticky Fingers hits shelves Oct. 24, 2017 — but in advance of its release, check out EW’s exclusive interview with Hagan, below.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How did you convince Jann Wenner to take part in this biography?
JOE HAGAN: It was originally Jann Wenner’s idea. We met in 2011 as neighbors in upstate New York and kept up a semi-regular dialogue about the news and journalism. He would occasionally drop wonderful anecdotes about rock stars and one day he asked me if I was interested in writing his biography. That began a sometimes knotty conversation. How would it work? We finally agreed the book had to be independent. I would report and write it, and he would provide all the access I needed. But he would not have approval over the material. Credibility was important to him. And he wanted his story to be told in full. It was also the only way I was willing to do it.
What has fascinated you most about him?
His ebullient and infectious confidence. And during this process, he could be breathtakingly honest. Of course, I had the most fun coaxing rock and roll stories out of him. The first one I remember was his description of Bob Dylan’s handshake — totally limp.
Which interview were you most surprised or excited to secure?
It was thrilling to interview Paul McCartney. I met him at his studio in the British countryside and he took me deep into Beatles history, much of which appears in the book. I also drank milkshakes at a diner in New York with Bruce Springsteen and interviewed Yoko Ono at the Dakota, where I sat in the same room as John Lennon’s white piano.
What surprised you most during the entire process? Can you tease one of your unexpected findings?
Being able to sift through box after box from Jann Wenner’s enormous archive, reading rare letters, looking at Polaroids and videos, listening to audio cassettes, stuff nobody had ever seen or heard, was a pretty magical experience. I felt like a cross between Cameron Crowe and Philip Marlow — part wide-eyed fan, part snooping detective. I discovered a lot of buried treasure in there, like a taped phone conversation between Wenner and Mick Jagger from 1972. And private letters from John Lennon.
How long have you been working on the project?
In September, it will be four years. Talk about a long, strange trip.