To kick off Asian-Pacific Heritage month and formally launch the Northwest chapter of our Asian Affinity Link employee resource group (ERG), Nielsen Gracenote hosted a fireside chat with Ben Fong-Torres, Rolling Stone’s first-ever music editor.
As a Bay Area native, Fong-Torres recalled his early encounters with music working in his family’s Chinese restaurant and explained how a letter to Rolling Stone’s editors as a reader led to a full-time position at the most prestigious music magazine of its time. Fong-Torres is widely known for his coverage of the burgeoning music scene in the 1960s and 1970s with prominent interviews with Paul McCartney, Elton John, Ray Charles and The Jackson 5, among others. He worked alongside other Rolling Stone legends, such as Jann Wenner, Hunter S. Thompson and a very young Cameron Crowe, who would go on to feature Fong-Torres as a character in his hit film Almost Famous.
During his visit, Fong-Torres described what it was like growing up as an Asian-American in the Bay Area, calling San Francisco in the 1960s “a time of more open doors than closed.” He gave some solid advice to Gracenoters looking to pursue their passions. “In the last 10-20 years, there have been more opportunities for Asian-Americans and other ethnic minorities,” he said. “There are still barriers. Sure, there’s still racism, bias, ceilings. But by and large, there are more opportunities now for those who have the ambition and the talent. If you don’t take a chance, you ain’t got a chance.”
“Sometimes you’re a little worried,” he added. “Maybe I should hold back. And this is not the time for me to do that yet, or to try for that and apply for that. I say go—what can you lose?”