Beer Can Blunder

Some Miller Brewing promotion cans are seen outside the company's Milwaukee brewery on July 28, 2004. The commemorative beer cans, celebrating the "50th Anniversary of Rock 'n' Roll," have Rolling Stone cover shots of Elvis Presley, Bon Jovi, Willie Nelson and others. What's missing is a black artist. Robert Thompson, a professor of pop culture at Syracuse University, said the absence is "beyond conspicuous" since black artists often are credited with inventing rock 'n' roll.
Miller Brewing Co. apologized Thursday for failing to include any black artists on its series of commemorative rock 'n' roll cans.

The Associated Press reported Sunday that the brewer did not include a black artist in its series of eight commemorative beer cans, part of a summer promotion with Rolling Stone magazine celebrating of the 50th anniversary of rock 'n' roll. Critics had questioned how Miller could have overlooked black artists' role in the development of rock music.

"African Americans obviously have played a formative role in the development of rock 'n' roll, and despite our efforts, we did not manage this component of the promotion appropriately," the company said in a statement late Thursday "to the African-American community, to music fans and to our valued consumers."

The cans issued by Milwaukee-based Miller featured Rolling Stone cover shots of Elvis Presley, Blondie, Alice Cooper, Bon Jovi, Def Leppard and Willie Nelson, as well as two showing the guitars of Eric Clapton and Joe Walsh.

"We took a hard look at the situation and realize where we fell short. You can count on Miller to step up," Virgis Colbert, Miller's executive vice president of worldwide operations, said in the statement.

The brewer noted that the commemorative cans were part of a larger campaign with Rolling Stone that includes events and promotions "that prominently and proudly feature African-American music artists."

Miller said its two-day concert, the culmination of the promotion, will feature James Brown, Bo Diddley, Wyclef Jean and Lenny Kravitz. The names of the artists for the Sept. 17 and 18 New York City performances had not previously been disclosed.

The cans were issued in conjunction with three Rolling Stone special editions: rock immortals, moments and photos. In its immortals edition, 20 of the 50 rockers are black.

By Juliet Williams