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Controversy Brewing Over Miller's Rock 'n' Roll Cans

MILWAUKEE, Wis. -- Some critics are complaining that Miller Brewing's celebration of the "50th Anniversary of Rock 'n' Roll" with eight commemorative beer cans that feature Rolling Stone cover shots of Elvis Presley, Blondie and others is missing a black artist, reported the Associated Press.

Robert Thompson, a professor of pop culture at Syracuse University, called the absence "beyond conspicuous," because 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 said. "It leaves out an enormous amount."

The promotion, which ties rock's anniversary to Presley's debut at Sun Studios, also depicts Alice Cooper, Bon Jovi, Def Leppard and Willie Nelson, as well as the guitars of Eric Clapton and Joe Walsh, on cans being issued this summer by the brewer and the magazine.

Gary Armstrong, chief marketing officer for Rolling Stone publisher Wenner Media, said race wasn't a consideration when choosing the artists. "We didn't even consciously think pro or con, the same way that the only woman on there is Blondie. We went through (the covers) and said these people we don't think are appropriate, or wouldn't appeal to Miller drinkers," he said.

Miller spokesman Scott Bussen said the company started with a broad wish list, but its choices were limited to Rolling Stone covers. "I'm sure that our objective was to get as diverse a representation of musical acts as well as diversity," he said.

The Hall of Fame, which is throwing a summer concert series sponsored by Miller Lite, declined to comment on the cans. Todd Mesek, the hall's senior marketing director, called African heritage "critical" to rock's development.

"Arguably all rock 'n' roll came from, or at least was greatly influenced by, African culture," Mesek said. "Rock 'n' roll came from R&B, jazz, folk. All those genres before rock 'n' roll came together to birth rock 'n' roll."
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