'A mouthwatering prospect. Rotolo was easily the second-most-compelling interviewee on No Direction Home; I hung onto her every word...The interest lies purely in the insight a very intelligent woman might provide on the formative period of a great artist' The Dylan Daily 'I met Bob Dylan in 1961 when I was seventeen years old and he was twenty,' ...
'A mouthwatering prospect. Rotolo was easily the second-most-compelling interviewee on No Direction Home; I hung onto her every word...The interest lies purely in the insight a very intelligent woman might provide on the formative period of a great artist' The Dylan Daily 'I met Bob Dylan in 1961 when I was seventeen years old and he was twenty,' begins Suze Rotolo's wonderfully romantic story of their sweet but sometimes wrenching love affair and its eventual collapse under the pressure of Dylan's growing fame. It is Rotolo who is pictured with Dylan on the famous and iconic sleeve of his album The Freewheelin Bob Dylan. She has never written about her time with him, and this memoir is therefore very eagerly anticipated. Set during the time when Dylan was writing the soundtrack to the cultural revolution of the 1960s, this is a unique and remarkable narrative of a place and time when art, culture and politics all seemed to be conspiring to make America freer, better and more equitable. With a supporting cast that includes Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, Phil Ochs, Joan Baez and Andy Warhol, this is the book not only Dylan fans but also anyone fascinated by the sixties will have been waiting for. Suze Rotolo is an artist who lives in New York City with her family.
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The cover photograph is iconic: In a belted green coat, a pre-Raphaelite Suze Rotolo clinging to her thin, shivery boyfriend Bob Dylan, dressed in suede jacket and jeans, as they amble down a snowy Greenwich Village street. The title of Rotolo's memoir refers to The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, his breakthrough album, and recounts the halcyon days of the folk movement when Dylan was rapidly becoming anointed its spokesperson and its generational voice.
It's fascinating, however, to read this memoir in relation to Dylan's own, Chronicles Vol. 1, which is even more vivid in its evocation of the Village scene. At the same time, Rotolo includes what the songwriter leaves out: their meeting at a Riverside Church folk concert, their near-instantaneous attraction and loving bond, his preoccupation with image, his self-invention and untruths, her difficult family life (she was a "red-diaper baby" of Communist parents), their tormented separation as Rotolo entered art school in Perugia, Italy, his ascent into the musical firmament.
But perhaps most importantly, Rotolo sheds a clear and incisive light on the sexism that existed not only in the bohemian folk scene, but in the Beat movement that preceded it. While male singers such as Dylan and Dave Van Ronk could stride that scene with an unprecedented freedom, women such as Rotolo could be no more than a consort, a musician's "chick." That bid for autonomy leads to her decision to leave for Italy. A woman's perspective on the early Sixties makes this memoir invaluable, and gives weight to Suze Rotolo's accomplishment as author and artist in her own right.
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