Miller Apologizes to Black Community for Rock ‘n’ Roll Promotion
Miller Brewing came under fire recently for its promotion commemorating the 50th Anniversary of Rock ‘n’ Roll. The promotion, which features Rolling Stone cover shots of Elvis Presley, Blondie and others on beer cans, had been criticized for its lack of diversity.
The brewer has since apologized to the Black community for failing to include any Black artists on its series of commemorative rock ‘n’ roll cans.
“African Americans obviously have played a formative role in the development of rock ‘n’ roll, and despite our efforts, we did not manage this component of the promotion appropriately,” the company said in a statement.
“We took a hard look at the situation and realize where we fell short. You can count on Miller to step up,” Virgis Colbert, Miller’s executive vice president of worldwide operations, said in the statement.
The brewer noted that the commemorative cans were part of a larger campaign with Rolling Stone that includes events and promotions “that prominently and proudly feature African-American music artists.”
Miller said its two-day concert, the culmination of the promotion, will feature James Brown, Bo Didley, Wyclef Jean and Lenny Kravitz, who are all Black. The names of the artists for the Sept. 17 and 18 New York City performances had not previously been disclosed.
The company also cited:
• A free guide to summer music events that included several Black artists;
• A digital music giveaway, in partnership with Napster, including a component called “The Summer of Non-Stop Hip Hop.”
Miller also said it planned a series of print ads in Rolling Stone and Black media nationwide following the New York concerts.
The company said the ads will feature the artists who performed and will talk about “the critical importance of African Americans in rock and roll.”
The cans were issued in conjunction with three Rolling Stone special editions: rock immortals, moments and photos. In its immortals edition, 20 of the 50 rockers are Black.
Some scholars questioned how Miller could have overlooked the importance of Black artists in the development of rock.
Dr. Robert Thompson, a professor of pop culture at Syracuse University, had called the absence “beyond conspicuous” since Black artists often are credited with inventing rock ‘n’ roll.
“It would be like doing a set of cans of six great Impressionist painters and not including any French people on it,” he told The AP.
Dr. William McKeen, chairman of the University of Florida journalism department and editor of the book Rock and Roll is Here to Stay: An Anthology, called the list “strange.”
“I look at rock ‘n’ roll in racial terms. Rock ‘n’ roll is Black America meeting White America,” McKeen says. “It’s about the merger of White people’s music — country — with Black people’s music — rural blues.”
— The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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