WHO AM I?
Now that I've revealed myself to be the author of THE BLACKLISTED MASTERPIECES OF AL ARONOWITZ, I feel compelled to tell you just who Al Aronowitz is and how he got here. I wrote the following "unbiased" bio as dispassionately as I could for Howard Goodman of the Philadelphia Inquirer and for Naomi Person of the PBS radio show, FRESH. A standard bio should never be more than two pages long, but I've always been known for my long-windedness. After all, I'm my own editor. Is that the equivalent of acting as my own attorney? So, here's my obviously subjective account of my career, which I wrote as objectively as possible. ##
Even before there was a Rolling Stone, a Creem, a Crawdaddy or any other of those sometimes all-too-juvenile publications which began to proliferate with the Rock Revolution, Al Aronowitz was the pre-eminent Pop Scene writer of the Sixties. As the man who introduced Allen Ginsberg to Bob Dylan, Bob Dylan to the Beatles and the Beatles to marijuana, Aronowitz was the invisible link from Kerouac to the Rock Revolution, from the Beats to the Beatles. As the writer who dazzled the international contemporary music industry with his Pop Scene column in the New York Post in the late 1960s and early 1970s, he also was an invisible link in getting everybody who was anybody in the pop world acquainted with one another. Art Garfunkel, for instance, once put an arm around Aronowitz's shoulder on a cross-country flight full of rock superstars and announced, "This is everybody's Uncle Al, the man who introduces everybody to everybody." Dylan himself told Aronowitz:
"You oughtta open up an office and just introduce people to people."
It was in that way that Aronowitz had almost as much of a hand in shaping his times as in chronicling them. As one of the first newspaperman to take Jack Kerouac and the Beat Generation seriously, Aronowitz gained early recognition writing about "outre" and the emerging counterculture. Churning out intimate profiles of such music personalities as Frank Sinatra, Bobby Darin and Ray Charles, first as a star feature writer on the New York Post and later as a contributing editor of the old Saturday Evening Post, Aronowitz, was always hunting culture heros to write about. It was as a matter of course that he found himself in the middle of the emerging pop scene.
A 1950 Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the Rutgers School of Journalism, Aronowitz began his career that year as the editor of the Lakewood (N.J.) Daily Times before joining the old Newark (N.J.) Evening News, where he ended up covering various sections of the entire state before becoming the Newark city police reporter. He also served hitches as pop music critic of the New York Times and of Life magazine. In addition, he has been published in the Washington Post and in other magazines and periodicals too numerous to list. The old Saturday Evening Post, in fact, enjoyed the greatest sales in its history in 1964 with its two issues featuring Aronowitz's electrifying articles about the Beatles on its covers.
Also assigned by the Saturday Evening Post to profile Bob Dylan, Aronowitz soon fell under Dylan's spell and found it more important to hang out with the man he considered "the Shakespeare of our times" than to write about him. Dylan, the Beatles and the Rock Revolution had so profound an effect on Aronowitz that Aronowitz began to doubt that words alone could express what he felt had to be said. Aronowitz began to believe that only words and music together could offer the communication demanded by the times.
Because he was neither a lyricist nor a musician, Aronowitz sought a way he could express himself with music. By then, Aronowitz was on familiar enough terms with such pop music entrepreneurs as Albert Grossman and Beatles manager Brian Epstein to let himself be tempted into becoming a music manager himself. The success stories he had written about them and about others in the music business made it sound all too easy. Teaming up with hit songwriters Carole King and Gerry Goffin, both of whom have since been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Aronowitz began managing a rock act known as the Myddle Class. Meanwhile, he let his contract with the Saturday Evening Post run out. Aronowitz thought he was going to make a million dollars in the rock and roll business but instead the project bombed and Aronowitz lost his house in suburban Berkeley Heights, N.J.
Still managing acts in a vain attempt to recoup his losses, he was living with his dying wife, three children, two cats and a million cockroaches (he claims he counted every one) in an upper West Side tenement when notoriously corrupt executive editor Paul Sann summoned him back to work at the New York Post. At first, Aronowitz was assigned to the city desk. He wrote feature stories and covered the anti-war protest. But when the publisher began pressuring Sann to initiate a pop music column, Aronowitz was obviously the most qualified man on the staff to write it. Three times, Sann ordered Aronowitz to write the column and three times, Aronowitz refused. Still managing acts, Aronowitz protested he would put himself in a position of conflict of interest. The cynical Sann, however, forced Aronowitz to write the column under threat of dismissal.
"Just don't write about your own acts!" Sann commanded, something which Aronowitz claims he never did.
The column did indeed endow Aronowitz with immense power as both a visible and invisible force in pop music. For example, Aronowitz, as the first man to encourage jazz immortal Miles Davis to perform before pop audiences, was instrumental in arranging Miles' debut at Bill Graham's Fillmore West in San Francisco. Aronowitz became so close a confidante of the legendary trumpeter that Miles at one point asked Aronowitz to manage his career.
Similarly, Aronowitz was a factor in the careers of many rock superstars. He was the first to discover and manage the Velvet Underground, founders of Punk Rock. Columbia Records President Clive Davis signed an obscure folksinger to a recording contract simply as a personal favor to Aronowitz. Aronowitz did Clive Davis favors, too. For instance, when Davis later wanted to sign the Grateful Dead to his Arista label, he had no hesitations about asking Aronowitz for an introduction to Grateful Dead leader Jerry Garcia. Aronowitz already knew Garcia and the Grateful Dead well enough to get them to record an album with Aronowitz's obscure folksinger.
When others on the Post staff complained about what seemed to be a conflict of interest, Sann eventually was forced to feign surprise, making believe he knew nothing about Aronowitz's music business activities. Liberally slandering Aronowitz in order to cover his own rear end, Sann made a big show of firing Aronowitz. The rest of the Post staff swallowed the poison about Aronowitz which Sann fed them without bothering to read the label on the bottle.
After the discontinuance of his column, Aronowitz next decided to try to make a splash by pioneering live country music in Manhattan. He produced a series of "Country in New York" concerts at Lincoln Center (the first country concerts ever played there) and at Madison Square Garden. Aronowitz worked hard trying to manufacture an audience for live country music in Manhattan. He started out with George Jones and Tammy Wynette and imported all of Nashville's top headliners, introducing such country "immortals" to Manhattan as Bill Monroe, Charlie Pride, Charlie Rich, Merle Haggard and Dolly Parton, among others. To promote Dolly Parton's New York debut, he put her on a flatbed train to perform on a whistle-stop tour of Long Island, where she attracted an audience of maybe 20 at each stop. The Long Island Railroad cooperated because it was running special trains into Manhattan's Penn Station for each "Country-in-New York" concert. Aronowitz also introduced such country newcomers as Tanya Tucker and Larry Gatlin.
But Aronowitz was ahead of his time. He was so ahead of his time that when he booked a Willie Nelson show as part of his "Country-in-New York" concert series, nobody bought tickets and he had to cancel the show. After several seasons, Aronowitz's "Country in New York" concert series bombed out.
Aronowitz next turned up on the front pages of underground newspapers as the author of a book which he published himself on a Xerox. "MORE THAN SIX COPIES NOW IN PRINT!" shouted a full-page ad in the Village Voice. Acclaimed by the counterculture press as "a joy to read" and "an underground hit," THE BLACKLISTED MASTERPIECES OF AL ARONOWITZ sold for $100 a copy, with each copy boxed, numbered and signed. Although Aronowitz now acknowledges that "maybe everything in the book aint exactly a masterpiece," a hundred and forty-five copies of THE BLACKLISTED MASTERPIECES OF AL ARONOWITZ are now in circulation. That figure, he adds, includes copies given away "with my compliments."
With the light of print denied to Aronowitz, he claims his talent has been kept hidden under the bushel of an unofficial "blacklist" for close to 26 years. Claiming also that he
Writing is my therapy.
was exiled "for no good reason" to what he called "a Devil's Island of the mind," Aronowitz confesses he went "more than a little crazy." Crazy or not, Aronowitz has continued to write, saying, "It's the only thing I know how to do. Writing is the only thing I've ever had any success at doing. I write even though I know no one's going to publish me. Writing is my therapy. I'm a compulsive writer. I've written reams and reams of stories since 1972. Maybe a lot of it is shit, but it's all salvageable, especially now, with the advent of the Internet. The Internet is salvaging me! The Internet has brought the world into a new era of communication. Eventually, we'll be getting our movies, our TV, our phone calls, our letters, our books, our newspapers, our magazines, our music and God knows what else over the Internet."
Despite open-heart surgery May 30, 1996, Aronowitz remains filled with optimism about the future and about his venture into cyberspace. Eventually, he hopes enough of an audience for his column will create a market so that collections of THE BLACKLISTED JOURNALIST can be sold in book form or as CD-ROMS.
"Then maybe I can start making a buck," he says.
Aronowitz's BLACKLISTED JOURNALIST column was introduced to the World-Wide Internet in September of 1995. Aronowitz adds a column each month, with some columns even featuring music, and, by October, 1966, he had built up a body of work which included 14 columns. Each column is the equivalent of a little "cyberzine," consisting of a lead piece followed by other writings, including contributions from other writers. Aronowitz is constantly soliciting and publishing manuscripts by others "who, like me, have the fire in the belly to write and no place to publish their writings. The Internet has come along as a blessing for me. The Internet has maybe saved me from a fate worse than death, which is the necessity of having to be satisfied with becoming a posthumously published writer. The Internet has given me the main thing I've wanted in my life: readers!"
Aronowitz has received Email encouragement from readers all over the world who have stumbled across his Internet page. As of October 10, 1996, THE BLACKLISTED JOURNALIST column was averaging between 100 and 200 hits per week at Manhattan's Internet Cafe, which is where THE BLACKLISTED JOURNALIST is transmitted onto the Web.
THE BLACKLISTED JOURNALIST can be found on the Internet at the following address: http://www.bigmagic.com/pages/blackj. He can be contacted at his Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org. ##
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THE BLACKLISTED JOURNALIST IS A SERVICE MARK OF AL ARONOWITZ