CNN says it better than I ever could: "Beatles-Dylan Introducer Dead." One of the taproots of the rock & roll family tree has washed away.
Al Aronowitz, the "Blacklisted Journalist," was actually a terrifically important journalist in postwar America. He was sort of the journalistic arm of the Beat movement, and the arts writer for the New Journalism - which is a roundabout way of saying he was the first print journalist to write about the Beat Generation without treating it as a novelty or a goofy trend. He was a friend and follower of Jack Kerouac, Neal Cassady, and Allen Ginsberg, and he took them seriously as the vanguard of a new literary movement.
He was also one of the pioneers of rock journalism. He wasn't a critic, but an interviewer and reporter, the man who followed the Beatles on their first U.S. tour for the Saturday Evening Post, by that time one of the most culturally conservative magazines on the American landscape. He wrote definitive early pieces on Mick Jagger, Pete Townshend, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jerry Garcia, and The Band. His love of the beats naturally led him to Bob Dylan, whom he wrote about as a cultural beacon. He was accused of being a hanger-on - which he was - but he documented his hanging on, in the process becoming rock's first on-the-scene correspondent.
But, yes, he's mostly remembered as the man who introduced the Beatles to Bob Dylan in 1964. If that seems like an injustice, however, give it another look: this minor role is bigger than all the others. There's the figurative importance: what was '60s rock, after all, but the meeting of the Beatles and Bob Dylan? But we all know what happened at that literal, physical meeting: Dylan gave the Fab Four their first marijuana joint. And their subsequent love affair with pot colored their work on Help and the combination of the drug and the Dylan influence all but wrote Rubber Soul by itself; then, Brian Wilson's encounter with Rubber Soul was so epochal that he was inspired to top it by creating The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds. Paul McCartney was so wowed by Pet Sounds that he used it, marijuana, and more serious drugs (weed is, after all, the Gateway Drug) as the inspiration for Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, the most influential, revolutionary, and just plain talked-about album in all of the rock universe. So in his own big but inadvertent way, Aronowitz thereby directly manipulated the entire rock universe of the four decades that followed that pot party. Not bad for a music writer...I hope I can say that someday.