The first definitive biography of Jann Wenner, the iconic founder of Rolling Stone magazine, and a romp through the hothouses of rock and roll, politics, media, and Hollywood, from the Summer of Love to the Internet age.
Hagan has delivered a supple, confident, dispassionately reported and deeply well-written biography. It’s a big book, one that no one will wish longer, but its chapters move past like a crunching collection of singles and not a thumb-sucking double album. It’s a joy to read and feels built to last. Hagan is among those relatively rare biographers who keeps macro and micro in yin-yang balance ... Sticky Fingers is about promises and promises betrayed, and about how Wenner’s life — his increasing obsession with fame and a plutocratic lifestyle — reflected both ... Come for the essayist in Hagan, stay for the eye-popping details and artful gossip ... After Wenner himself, Annie Leibovitz is the most fully realized character in this biography. She comes across as an endearing wild child, sleeping with some of her subjects, abandoning rental cars in haste at airports and becoming, Hagan writes, a 'full-blown drug addict whose body was, more than once, unceremoniously dumped in front of a hospital by her dealer' ... In scorning Hagan’s work, Wenner’s editorial antennae have failed him. He had the nerve to select a writer and not a hagiographer, and the decision, at the end of his long career, looks good on him.
Hagan’s biography is a colossal achievement of reporting and synthesis, fast-paced, compulsively readable, and consistently insightful in its understanding of how and why Wenner was able to turn a modest fanboy tabloid into an iconic cultural force and, after its golden years were behind it, to convert its waning and increasingly nostalgic cultural cachet into a media fiefdom that nearly made him a billionaire.
Although he is sometimes tough on Wenner, Hagan is more than fair. Ultimately, he seems to agree with former Rolling Stone editor Will Dana that Wenner, though torn between the virtues and vices of his generation, is '51 percent good' ... Hagan, to his credit, approached the book not as a rose-tinted 'authorized biography' but as a serious work of narrative journalism. As such, it largely succeeds, wending its way through the decades, the music and the personalities ... Hagan not only helps us understand how terribly much it seemed to matter, once upon a time. He also, through his nuanced portrait of Wenner, shows us how thoroughly the publication reflected its founder, warts and all.