Patricia Kennealy-Morrison, rock journalist, dies at 75
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Patricia Kennealy-Morrison, rock journalist, dies at 75
Ms. Kennealy-Morrison said her book “Strange Days” was a response to Oliver Stone’s movie. Critics said it was an attempt to gain attention and usurp another love interest’s place in the Morrison mythos.

by Neil Genzlinger

NEW YORK (NYT NEWS SERVICE).- Patricia Kennealy-Morrison, who wrote about rock when music journalists were just beginning to take it seriously, and through her work met Jim Morrison, frontman of the Doors, with whom she said she had a marriage of sorts, died on July 23. She was 75.

Her death was announced on the Facebook page of Lizard Queen Press, a publishing enterprise that she founded and that published her recent books. The announcement did not give a cause or say where she died.

In the late 1960s, originally as Patricia Kennely (she later changed the spelling of her last name and, in 1979, added “Morrison”), she was a writer for and then editor of Jazz & Pop, a small but well-regarded magazine. She interviewed Morrison in 1969, and when they shook hands there was “a visible shower of bright blue sparks flying in all directions,” she wrote in a 1992 memoir, “Strange Days: My Life With and Without Jim Morrison.” They soon became romantically involved.

Kennealy-Morrison practiced Celtic paganism; on her Facebook page she described herself as “Author, ex-rock critic, Dame Templar, Celtic witch, ex-go-go dancer, Lizard Queen. Not in that order.” (“Lizard Queen” was a reference to a line from a Jim Morrison poem, in which he wrote, “I am the Lizard King.”) In 1970 she and Morrison exchanged vows in a “handfasting ceremony” that involved drops of their own blood.

She said her book “Strange Days” (also the title of the Doors’ second album, from 1967) was a response to the 1991 movie “The Doors.” Oliver Stone, who directed the film, had consulted her on it, and she even played the Wicca priestess who presides over the handfasting. (Val Kilmer played Morrison; Kathleen Quinlan played Kennealy-Morrison.) But she said she was outraged by the film when she saw it at a screening, feeling that it trivialized the ceremony, did not give enough prominence to her relationship with Morrison, and misrepresented him.

“If Oliver had been at that screening, we would never have had to worry about his movie ‘JFK,’” she told The Daily Mail of London in 1992, referring to Stone’s next film. “I would have killed him.”

Critics said the book was just an attempt to gain attention and usurp the place in the Morrison mythos of Pamela Courson, another of his love interests, who called herself his common-law wife. Morrison died in 1971 in Paris at 27; Courson, who was with him at the time, died a few years later, also at 27. Drugs were suspected in both deaths.

In her book, Kennealy-Morrison blamed Courson for Morrison’s death, in a bathtub in his apartment. “She fed heroin to the man she claimed to love, leaving him dying while she nodded out,” she wrote.

In late October 2010, on the eve of Samhain, a Celtic religious festival that inspired Halloween, Kennealy-Morrison spoke to The Daily News in New York about her plans for marking the occasion.

“I will place a light in the window to guide the souls in the night,” she said. “I will have food, pork and apples in Celtic tradition for the ancestors from the other world. I will talk to my beloved dead, including my father and grandmother. It will be a joyful and deeply holy occasion. Jim usually shows up. And when he does, I will celebrate Samhain, the new Celtic year, with my husband.”

Patricia Kennely was born on March 4, 1946, in Brooklyn and grew up on Long Island. In 1963 she enrolled at St. Bonaventure University, a Franciscan institution in Allegany, New York, to study journalism. That’s where she discovered the Celtic religion.

“They had an amazing library on the subject at St. Bonaventure’s, I guess operating on the principle of ‘Know thy enemy,’” she told The Daily News.

She transferred to Harpur College in Binghamton, New York, after two years and earned an English degree in 1967. While there she discovered the political activism that was brewing on campuses across the nation. She also discovered rock music, and one 1966 album in particular.

“It was called ‘Jefferson Airplane Takes Off,’” she wrote in “Rock Chick: A Girl and Her Music,” a 2013 compilation of her Jazz & Pop writings. “And so did I.”

While in college she earned extra money as a go-go dancer at nightclubs.

“Scorning the white boots and pastel-microdress go-go-girl template that was prevalent across the land, I went Dark Side,” she wrote, “wearing a black leather-look fringed bikini, black fishnets and black knee-high boots.”

“I looked like Zorro’s kinky girlfriend,” she added.

After graduating, she landed a job as an editorial assistant at Crowell-Collier & Macmillan Publishing in Manhattan. She saw the first cover of Jazz & Pop magazine on a newsstand in 1967 (it had been founded as Jazz magazine in 1962 by Pauline Rivelli, who in 1967 broadened it into rock coverage and renamed it) and began lobbying for a job there. She was hired as an editorial assistant in early 1968. By the end of that year she had been named editor.

The magazine was one of several that came along about the same time that took the music more seriously than the fanzines of the era. (Rolling Stone was founded in 1967.)

Kennealy-Morrison’s pieces set the tone for Jazz & Pop. In the April 1970 issue, she wrote about the influence that religions of various kinds were having on music. She thought, for instance, that the band Coven was invoking black magic in dangerous ways. “Black magic is NOT merely an interesting new wrinkle for the PR crowd to play with, or a hot new ad copy slant,” she cautioned.

Three months later she blasted rock fans as not being selective enough and not applying their intellects to what they were hearing.

“How many excruciating guitar solos, how many organ solos that were so boring your legs started to hurt, how many meaningless vocal improvisations, have we all sat through?” she wrote. “And at the conclusions of all of these various monuments to rock ego, how many standing ovations have we bestowed?”

Steve Hochman, a music journalist who was also a friend, wrote of her influence in a Facebook post noting her death.

“As a writer and editor of Jazz & Pop magazine,” he wrote, “she helped establish the then-embryonic realm at a time when few thought of pop music as worthy of such critical attention.”

Jazz & Pop went out of business in 1971.

Kennealy-Morrison’s survivors include two brothers, Kevin and Timothy Kennely. A sister, Regina Kennely, died in March.

Beginning in the mid-1980s, Kennealy-Morrison wrote a series of fantasy novels, collectively known as “The Keltiad,” which drew on Celtic legends and mythology. More recently, under the name Patricia Morrison, she wrote mysteries with musical themes, drawing on her time in the rock world. Among the titles are “Scareway to Heaven: Murder at the Fillmore East” and “Daydream Bereaver: Murder on the Good Ship Rock & Roll.”

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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