Monday night, Sonny Rollins spoke live at his website about the controversy over the New Yorker's publication of 11 fabricated quotes that the magazine's website attributed to him and later labeled as satire. Dressed in a red shirt and cap, and wearing white rimmed sunglasses, Sonny opened by confessing that he sensed from the start that the column ("Sonny Rollins: In His Own Words") was a joke akin to a Mad magazine spoof, since he knew he had never said any of it. But he also said he was troubled that the column, which originally came without a disclaimer, was being misinterpreted by musicians and friends who asked him why he was trashing jazz and his own career. Sonny then talked at length about why the invented quotes were a disservice to the music. Here are Sonny's remarks in full...
To me, this matter isn't quite resolved, and I'd love to know the answers to the following questions...
1. Why was Sonny Rollins chosen in the first place as the spoof's target and who else was considered?
2. Why didn't New Yorker editors feel the column required an accompanying disclaimer from the start?
3. If one truly believes that fabricating quotes and not letting readers in on the joke is satire, why didn't the magazine choose major rock or rap stars, who certainly would have created much more buzz?
4. Why hasn't anyone at the New Yorker called Sonny to apologize for any grief or stress the column might have caused the 83-year-old tenor saxophonist?
To many, this is either a spoof gone bad or an obvious gag misinterpreted by those who can't take a joke. To me, it's a matter of taste and editorial judgment. Publishing a column of quotes that you know to be fake and knowingly attributing them to someone who never said them as a spoof, without a disclaimer, is at best cruel. While some may know the column is a gag, content today, like uranium, lives on forever.
Going forward, I hope the New Yorker's satirists will pick on targets who deserve the ribbing and leave the greats alone.