When Rolling Stone Rocked Culture

By Neal Broverman

Originally published on Advocate.com June 24 2010 3:20 PM ET

Rolling Stone's takedown of effusive Army general Stanley McChrystal is just the latest cultural stamp the music magazine's left on the world. Since launching Rolling Stone in 1967 at age 21, gay publisher Jann Wenner has overseen a string of whistle-blowing stories and indelible images, launched the careers of legendary writers and photographers, and shaped the images of superstars like Janet Jackson and Britney Spears. Here are the highlights of Wenner's 43-year reign:

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American Idol superstar Lambert came out to the world on Wenner's June 9, 2009 cover. “I don’t think it should be a surprise for anyone to hear that I’m gay,” he said in the piece. “I’m proud of my sexuality. I embrace it. It’s just another part of me.”

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Gay parenting got a spokeswoman when rock star Melissa Etheridge showed off her kids with then-partner Julie Cypher. Etheridge dropped a bomb when she revealed the identity of her children's father: rocker David Crosby.

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Britney Spears cemented her image as a Lolita-esque sexpot in this 1999 cover, which featured the 17-year-old clutching the"gay" Teletubby. On Wenner's blog, he recalls the making of the legendary picture: "When Spears’s then-manager objected to the pose during the shoot, she overruled him." Photographer David LaChapelle recalls, “Britney said, ‘Lock the door,’ and unbuttoned her shirt wide open.”

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Before Adam, before Melissa, before k.d., there was Elton. All the way back in 1976, the Rocket Man came out as bisexual in Rolling Stone — a revelation that alienated much of his fan base.

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Arguably the world's most famous photographer, lesbian Annie Leibovitz got her start at the fledgling magazine in the early 1970s, snapping bands like the Rolling Stones. Leibovitz photographed Yoko Ono and John Lennon for the magazine in December 1980 — five hours before the former Beatle was shot to death in front of his New York apartment.

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Hard-living writer Hunter S. Thompson honed his style of gonzo journalism, which threw the writer into the story, at Rolling Stone. His memoir of a drug-soaked writing assignment in Sin City, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, was first serialized in Wenner's publication.

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As made clear with the McChrystal piece, Rolling Stone's articles and writers can shake things up just as much as their covers or photographers. Acid proponent Ken Kesey (left) wrote his last article, about the 9/11 attacks, for the magazine. Tom Wolfe (center) was a major contributor to the publication, and would go on to become one of the late 20th century's most celebrated novelists. Jann Wenner hired Cameron Crowe as one of his editors, and his charge would later go on to become a major Hollywood director. Crowe recounted his wild days as a Rolling Stone journalist in the film Almost Famous. Other major Rolling Stone pieces have included an exposé on the death of nuclear-plant worker Karen Silkwood and a chronicle of the life of Vietnam veteran Ron Kovic.