R.I.P. Dylan Muse Suze Rotolo

Suze Rotolo was Bob Dylan’s girlfriend during the folk legend’s Greenwich Village days in the early-early 60’s. She might not be as famous as other women from Dylan’s life like Joan Baez or Sara, Bob’s longtime wife and mother of four Dylan children. But she was with the man when it mattered. For all the legend of his mercurial rise, Bob must have felt pretty vulnerable upon his arrival in New York in early ’61 (after dropping out of the University of Minnesota). He met Suze, then a 17-year-old activist with the Congress of Racial Equality, in July of that year. Having been raised in the city by left-wing Italian-American parents, Suze was instantly more cultured than Bob at the time of their meeting. Who knows the extent to which she turned Dylan onto Civil Rights and modern art, standing as a rock of support to the budding songwriter during his first forays into a competitive Village folk scene? (I imagine Rotolo’s memoir, A Freewheelin’ Time: A Memoir of Greenwich Village in the Sixties, helps address some of these unknowns.)

Suze is probably best remembered as being the girl on Dylan’s arm on the iconic Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan cover. But how about the luck at being muse for some of Dylan’s earliest, absolute best love songs, like “Boots of Spanish Leather”? Suze Rotolo died last Friday at the age of 67.


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