Dylan, the Beatles and a blacklisted journalist

The son of a kosher butcher from New Jersey, Al Aronowitz, 76, is the last of the angry formerly young men.

He covered the pop culture beat for the New York Post and Saturday Evening Post in the late 1950s and ’60s. He was one of the first people to take contemporary music seriously, and in the process became friends with Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac. He introduced Ginsberg to Bob Dylan and Dylan to the Beatles and the Beatles to marijuana.

The details are all in his self-published book, “Bob Dylan and the Beatles.”

Kerouac, he said, became a “drunk and anti-Semitic.” Ginsberg made a pass at Dylan when they first met. “Allen had a certain great charm. Even when he came on sexually, he made it funny. And Dylan just laughed.”

It was a pivotal time in cultural history, and not only was Aronowitz there, he knew all the players. “I considered Ginsberg and Kerouac to be immortals. When I say immortal, I mean their work will live forever, like Brahms, Beethoven, Mozart. When I met Dylan I considered him to be an immortal, too.”

Aronowitz was born in Bordentown, N.J., where his Orthodox parents ran a kosher slaughterhouse. They subsequently moved to Roselle, N.J., and opened a butcher shop. He attended Rutgers, where he majored in journalism, worked for a number of papers and ended up at the New York Post in 1957.

There he was assigned to write profiles of Frank Sinatra, Bobby Darin and the Beat poets. He signed on as a contract writer for The Saturday Evening Post. A cover story he wrote about the Beatles resulted in the best-selling issue in the magazine’s history. The magazine also asked him to write about Dylan. “Researching the piece, I became so fascinated by Dylan I never got around to writing the story,” he said.

Aug. 28, 1964, was the fateful day when, as he writes in his book, he became “a proud and happy shadchen, a Jewish matchmaker, dancing at the princely wedding.” He brought a reluctant Dylan — he thought the Beatles played bubble-gum music — to the Beatles’ suite at the Hotel Delmonico, a move that Aronowitz believes changed music history.

Not long after that, Dylan started rocking (more aptly folk rock), eventually with electric instruments, and the Beatles’ lyrics and songs became weightier.

Aronowitz isn’t good keeping track of dates. However at some point, after years in the eye of the cultural hurricane, things started to turn sour. His vehemence angered editors. “The Saturday Evening Post … had a certain formula you had to write to and I felt the formula handcuffed me. I felt the story tells itself. I don’t need an editor telling me how to write. And that’s why they won’t print me.”

So just to keep his work in the public eye, Aronowitz started a monthly e-zine called The Blacklisted Journalist at www.bigmagic.com/pages/blackj. It’s where you’ll find his articles and be able to purchase a copy of the book for less than its price on Amazon. He’s now working on a biography of Bobby Darin. After that, he hopes to write about the Beat poets. “It’s a long story,” he said. “I hope I live long enough.”

“Bob Dylan and the Beatles, Volume One of the Best of the Blacklisted Journalist” by Al Aronowitz (618 pages, Authorhouse, $25.95).

Curt Schleier
Curt Schleier

Curt Schleier is a freelance writer and author who covers business and the arts for a variety of publications. Follow him on Twitter at @tvsoundoff.