Al Aronowitz, a big-talking journalist who introduced the Beatles to Bob Dylan and, he claimed, to marijuana, and who led as colorful a life as the rock stars he chronicled, died Aug. 1 of cancer at a hospital in Elizabeth, N.J. He was 77.
As a reporter with the New York Post in the 1960s, Mr. Aronowitz was among the first mainstream journalists to write in-depth, complimentary articles about rock music, the writers of the Beat Generation and other artists who brought about a cultural revolution. Sometimes called the godfather of rock journalism, he freely crossed the line from observer to drug-taking participant long before Rolling Stone magazine had ever heard of Hunter S. Thompson.
In his heyday, Mr. Aronowitz was a well-known entertainment writer who could get Frank Sinatra, Miles Davis and Marilyn Monroe to return his calls. His work appeared in national magazines and was reprinted in anthologies. Modesty was not one of his more notable traits.
"The '60s wouldn't have been the same without me," he said.
Mr. Aronowitz first heard folk-music sensation Dylan in the early 1960s and, in his own words, "fell in love."
"To me," he wrote, "no other artist had ever come along with such wit, perception, insight, charm, cleverness and charisma."
In 1964, he went to England to investigate the growing mania for the Beatles and wrote a 10,700-word article for what became the best-selling issue of the Saturday Evening Post.
The high point of his career, in more ways than one, may have come on Aug. 28, 1964, when he brought the Beatles together with Dylan at the Hotel Delmonico in New York. According to inside accounts, Mr. Aronowitz opened his private stash of marijuana and offered some to the Beatles, who apparently had never tried it. John Lennon asked Ringo Starr to be his "royal taster."
"Soon, Ringo got the giggles," Mr. Aronowitz wrote years later, and "the rest of us started laughing hysterically at the way Ringo was laughing hysterically."
The meeting proved musically fruitful, as well, because it led both the Beatles and Dylan in new directions.
"The Beatles' magic was in their sound," Mr. Aronowitz told Mike Miliard of the Boston Phoenix last year. "Bob's magic was in his words. After they met, the Beatles' words got grittier, and Bob invented folk-rock."
In another interview last year with the Star-Ledger of Newark, Mr. Aronowitz said: "Until the advent of rap, pop music remained largely derivative of that night at the Delmonico. That meeting didn't just change pop music, it changed the times."
From his perch at the cultural cusp of the '60s, Mr. Aronowitz was present at the creation of many of the era's landmark phenomena. It was in his kitchen, he said, that Dylan wrote "Mr. Tambourine Man" while staying up all night listening to Marvin Gaye.
He was Dylan's manager during an ill-tempered 1969 appearance at Britain's Isle of Wight Festival. He had bad luck managing other rock acts. He was friends with Jim Morrison, Brian Jones and Janis Joplin -- all of whom died of drug overdoses -- and by 1972, Mr. Aronowitz's own life was tumbling out of control.
His wife, Ann, died of cancer, and his bosses at the New York Post had grown tired of his thorny personality and conflicts of interest. He was fired, lost his house and, over the next decade, became addicted to freebasing cocaine. He became a drug dealer. Dylan banned him from his concerts, and other people thought he was dead.
Mr. Aronowitz climbed cold turkey out of his addiction in 1985 and, a decade later, discovered the publishing possibilities of the Internet. Describing himself as a blacklisted journalist, he launched a Web site under that name on which he published long articles about his earlier experiences.
"I guess I wasn't enough of a hustler and a con man to compete with the sharks, wolves and snakes with whom I had to deal," he wrote. "So now, I'm just a poor, broke, forgotten and ignored blacklisted journalist who has to give away all my stories free on the Internet because I don't want to wait to be published posthumously."
Mr. Aronowitz was born in Bordentown, N.J., the son of an Orthodox Jewish butcher, and graduated in 1950 from Rutgers University, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. He worked at New Jersey newspapers before joining the New York Post in 1957.
In 1960, he was dispatched to San Francisco to write about the writers of the Beat Generation and returned with a glowing 12-part series. The Beats introduced him to marijuana and inspired a sense of cultural rebellion that remained with him throughout his life.
He collaborated with fellow journalist Pete Hamill on a book about Ernest Hemingway in 1961. In recent years, Mr. Aronowitz, who lived in a small, cluttered apartment in Elizabeth, produced two self-published books about Dylan and the Beatles and another about Bobby Darin. He became an outspoken opponent of drugs, particularly the ingestion of any form of smoke, whether from tobacco, illegal drugs or exhaust fumes.
Yet in his writings and the speeches he gave across the country, he continued to remind people of his earlier high times with the rock-and-roll giants.
"The Beatles were immortals and Dylan was immortal," he said. "I wanted my piece of immortality, too."
Survivors include three children; a longtime companion, Ida Becker; and two grandchildren.