Patricia Kennealy-Morrison, a key figure in the early days of rock journalism who also figured heavily in Doors lore as the partner of Jim Morrison, and who later became a prolific novelist, has died at age 75. Her death occurred in late July, although different dates have been given. The cause of death was said to be complications from heart disease.
“She was a beautiful, gifted person, and a brilliant writer, and the best sister,” says Kevin Kennely, who, along with another brother, Timothy, is one of her two family survivors.
Kennealy-Morrison, who changed the traditional family spelling of her last name before adding Jim Morrison’s name to it, was best recognized for her connection to the rock legend, and was portrayed by Kathleen Quinlan in Oliver Stone’s film “The Doors,” which dramatized a blood-exchanging Celtic handfasting ceremony bonding them in everything but official matrimony in 1970. (Kennealy-Morrison made a cameo herself in the scene, as the Wiccan priestess overseeing the vows, though she disavowed the film after its release.) She met the star while interviewing him in 1969, and their stories in his last years were entwined enough that she titled her 1992 memoir “Strange Days: My Life With and Without Jim Morrison.”
To many in the community of veteran rock journalists, however, her status as a pioneer in that field in the 1960s outstrips even the fame she accumulated as a result of her sort-of marriage. Her legend in journalism stemmed from having been editor-in-chief of Jazz & Pop magazine from 1968-71, at which point the publication folded.
Says Lenny Kaye, an early rock critic who became more renowned as a musician and producer: “Under Patricia’s editorship, Jazz and Pop was the most forward looking of the music magazines of the time, not only highlighting rock’s outre edges, but championing the freest of jazz. It was she who granted me my first publication as a writer, and allowed me to range as far as I could imagine — an important encouragement as I developed my critical vocabulary. It was in Jazz and Pop that I wrote ‘The Best of Accapella,’ about a localized doo-wop niche in the moments after group harmony had been rendered obsolete by the British Invasion, and its publication in the December 1969 inspired a poet named Patti Smith to call me and say how moved she was by the article, beginning a life-long collaboration.”
Adds Kaye, “Patricia’s taste, acumen, and dedication to art remained a lodestar, and I know the Celtic gods will watch over her in her journey to the hereafter.”
Says another friend, Carla Black, “Patricia was very direct and passionate about so many things. She did not suffer fools gladly and could be intimidating. But she was also kind and generous and prolific. She was one of the first women to break through the boys’ club of music journalism but set that aside to write Celtic fantasy series.”
In 2013, Black invited Kennealy-Morrison to Austin to be a speaker at a conference about women in music, and “to my surprise and delight, she had a unique point of view on every subject — especially anything British or British-adjacent. I will miss her greatly.”
Kennealy-Morrison published more than 15 novels — sometimes under different variations of her name (including Patricia Kennely and Patricia Morrison) — most of which appeared in ongoing series that fell either under fantasy umbrellas (“The Keltiad,” “Tales of Aeron,” “Tales of Arthur”) or hewed more toward the music world she once traveled in (“The Rock & Roll Murders”). Her early rock writing was also anthologized in Ann Powers and Evelyn McDonnell’s “Rock She Wrote.” In 2013, she wrote a successor to her first memoir, titled “Rock Chick: A Girl and Her Music.”
Kennealy-Morrison was reported to have been discovered dead in her New York apartment after not responding to calls. She spent much of her life in New York, having been born in Brooklyn in 1946 and raised on Long Island; she returned to the city after her college graduation and landed an assistant job at Crowell-Collier & Macmillan Publishing before quickly moving on to top the Jazz & Pop masthead.
Veteran rock journalist Steve Hochman, who intersected with Kennealy-Morrison in their circles, said that “as a writer and editor of Jazz & Pop magazine, she helped establish the then-embryonic realm at a time when few thought of pop music as worthy of such critical attention.”
Kennealy-Morrison described herself in her social media profile as an “author, ex-rock critic, Dame Templar, Celtic witch, ex-go-go dancer (and) Lizard Queen. Not in that order.” That last descriptor echoed Jim Morrison’s description of himself in verse as “the Lizard King.”
In an interview with American Legends in the late 1990s, Kennealy-Morrison spoke of her disdain for the “Doors” movie she had cameo-ed in. “You mean the world’s biggest music video? Jim Morrison, the man I love, the man I married, is nowhere in that film. What you see is a grotesque, sodden, buffoonish caricature, who could never have written the immortal songs he is supposedly being immortalized for. But the worst sin Oliver Stone committed is that you don’t care that Jim Morrison is dead at the end of the film.”
Kennealy-Morrison described herself as married to the Doors’ singer, although he had a common-law wife, Pamela Courson, who was with him at the time that he died in Paris in 1971. “I had eight or ten cards and letters from him in the three months he spent there. Some were exalted and joyous and others were veiled in despair,” she told American Legends. “The last letter he wrote me was mailed only a few days before he died. He wrote of how tired he was and how much he missed me. ‘My side is cold without you…’ he told me. The letter was to weep for, and I did, and still do.”
In an interview published in a Doors fan magazine in the early ’90s, she said, “It is not a legal marriage and I would hasten to say that I have never claimed to be Jim’s legal wife, but it was very valid and very binding religious ritual. Jim took it very seriously, contrary to the way he is portrayed as taking it in the movie. It was his idea and I think that he did it because he knew it would give me great joy.”
McDonnell, who frequently acknowledged a debt to her forebear, wrote in an obituary in the Los Angeles Times that Kennealy-Morrison was “a talented and strong-voiced critic who was acutely aware of the paucity of opportunities offered to women in music.”
Her literary aspirations evolved far beyond the rock world to which she occasionally returned. In a 1980s interview about her “Keltiad” series, which was described as “blend(ing) science fiction and fantasy as it transposes the ancient Celtic world and its customs into a space-faring future,” Kennealy-Morrison said, “I see time as a continuum, as a circle you can get on or off any time or place you please, then turn it around, twist it upon itself, and tie it all together. The stories never change. The subjects that mattered in earlier times, that made for the most interesting stories, that kept people awake around the campfires or in the mead halls, they’re the same topics that hold our interest today, and will tomorrow. People will always want to hear good stories well told, stories about love, death, war, and betrayal. These themes have been going strong for a couple of thousand years, long before Arthur, and they will be going strong long after us.”
Of her own personal preferences on the timeline, she said, “In one of my former lives I probably was an ancient Celt, but I think I would vastly prefer being a future Kelt. One can have it both ways: battles with swords on the one hand; computers, air-conditioning and all the comforts of home on the other.”