Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Remembering Suze Rotolo (1943-2011), Dylan’s Early Muse

Suze Rotolo, who passed away on Friday, had three-year relationship with Bob Dylan that started in 1961, when she was 17 and he 20. Dylan fans owe Rotolo a tremendous debt of gratitude for her decisive role in the development of his music; the daughter of left-wing Italian immigrant parents, Rotolo introduced Dylan to the political causes of the time. Her influence was evident in such songs as "The Death of Emmett Till,” “Masters of War” and “Blowin’ in the Wind.” When she went to Italy for several months in 1962, she inspired the love songs “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right,” “Boots of Spanish Leather,” “One Too May Mornings” and “Tomorrow Is a Long Time.” The most famous photo of the young couple is on the cover (above) of “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” album (1963), which showed them walking on a wintry day on Jones Street in Greenwich Village. They lived together in the Village, where Dylan took part in the folk music revival, yet his growing fame eventually drove them apart. Rotolo became an artist, wife and mother, remained politically active and wrote “A Freewheelin’ Time: A Memoir of Greenwich Village in the Sixties.”

Dylan’s “Ballad In Plain D” looks back with regret at his breakup with Rotolo, including a bitter fight he had with her and her sister Carla:

The following video tribute contains portraits of Rotolo and Dylan set to a performance of “Tomorrow Is a Long Time”:

For further accounts of the life of Suze Rotolo, see the obituaries in The New York Times and Rolling Stone, as well as the beautiful tribute written by Rotolo's friend J. Hoberman in The Village Voice.

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