Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Al Aronowitz - Comment - Times Online


August 03, 2005

Al Aronowitz
1928 - August 1, 2005
Columnist whose connections with poets and musicians paved the way for gonzo journalism

AL ARONOWITZ was the doyen of early American rock criticism. Yet even if he had never written a word he would still have found a place in the history of popular culture as the man who introduced Bob Dylan to the Beatles.

Born in Bordentown, New Jersey, Aronowitz studied at Rutgers University before he began writing for the New York Post in the mid-1950s, making his name with a 12-part series on the Beat movement. He became friends with many of those he was writing about, including Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, and his sympathy with the Beat philosophy was evident in his writing. The series is now hailed as one of the first examples of participatory journalism, a style later adopted by such writers as Hunter S. Thompson.

Aronowitz was on hand in 1961 when Bob Dylan arrived in Greenwich Village, New York, and chronicled the folk revival and the emergence of the protest movement. He became friends with Dylan after interviewing him for The Saturday Evening Post. Many years later Aronowitz confessed: �We all thought he was God. In fact I got so crazy I thought he was the new messiah.� In 1963 he introduced Dylan to Ginsberg, who became a strong influence on the young songwriter.

Even more significantly, when covering the Beatles' tour of America the year after, he was asked by John Lennon to arrange a meeting with Dylan. It took place at Hotel Delmonico, New York, and presaged a sea change in popular music. As Aronowitz put it: "The Beatles' magic was in their sound. Bob's magic was in his words. After they met, the Beatles' words got grittier and Bob invented folk-rock.”

Other critics sometimes accused Aronowitz of being a scene-stealer. Certainly, he was always ready to paint his own part in events large and once boasted: “The Sixties wouldn’t have been the same without me.” But most of his stories, such as the claim that Dylan wrote Mr Tambourine Man in his kitchen, stand up to scrutiny. When asked at a New York press conference in 1965 who he thought could save the world, Dylan jokingly nominated Aronowitz. The writer was one of the few people permitted to visit Dylan after he retreated to Woodstock after his 1966 motorcycle crash and accompanied him on his “comeback” at the Isle of Wight festival in 1969.

Aronowitz’s life fell apart in 1972 when his wife, Ann, died of cancer and he was sacked by the New York Post.

Addicted to drugs, he disappeared from the scene before re-emerging in the 1990s, when he launched a website, The Blacklisted Journalist, and published the books, Bob Dylan and the Beatles and Bobby Darin Was a Friend of Mine. At the time of his death, he was working on Mick and Miles, about Mick Jagger and Miles Davis.

He is survived by three sons and his companion, Ida Becker.

Al Aronowitz, writer, was born in 1928. He died of cancer on August 1, 2005, aged 77."

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