Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Suze Rotolo

Suze Rotolo
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Suze Rotolo

Susan Elizabeth Rotolo (November 20, 1943 – February 25, 2011), [1] known as Suze Rotolo (/ˈsu z ː/ soo-zee), [2] was an American artist, but is perhaps best known as Bob Dylan's girlfriend from 1961 to 1964 and a strong influence on his music. Rotolo is the woman walking with him on the cover of his album The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, a ground-breaking street image by the CBS studio photographer, Don Hunstein.[3][4] In her book, A Freewheelin' Time: A Memoir of Greenwich Village in the Sixties, Rotolo described her time with Dylan and other figures in the folk music and bohemian scene in Greenwich Village, New York. She also discussed her upbringing as a "red diaper" baby — a child of radicals during the McCarthy Era. As an artist, Rotolo specialized in artists' books and taught at the Parsons School of Design in New York City.[5]


The Freewheelin' years, 1961–1964

Rotolo, of Italian-American descent, was born in the Brooklyn Jewish Hospital, New York and raised in Sunnyside, Queens.[6] Her parents were Joachim Rotolo and Mary Pezzati Rotolo, who were members of the American Communist Party.[7] In July 1961, she graduated from Bryant High School.

Cover art for the album The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, Suze Rotolo walking with Bob Dylan.

At about the time she met Dylan, Rotolo began working full time as a political activist in the office of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), [8] and the anti-nuclear group SANE. She and her sister Carla had also entered the Greenwich Village folk scene.

Rotolo first met Dylan at a Riverside Church folk concert in July 1961. [3] They were introduced by Carla, who at that time was working as an assistant to folklorist Alan Lomax. [1] Describing their meeting in his memoir, Chronicles, Volume One, Dylan wrote: "Right from the start I couldn’t take my eyes off her. She was the most erotic thing I’d ever seen. She was fair skinned and golden haired, full-blood Italian. The air was suddenly filled with banana leaves. We started talking and my head started to spin. Cupid’s arrow had whistled past my ears before, but this time it hit me in the heart and the weight of it dragged me overboard... Meeting her was like stepping into the tales of 1001 Arabian Nights. She had a smile that could light up a street full of people and was extremely lively, had a kind of voluptuousness – a Rodin sculpture come to life".[9]

It was not until they met that Dylan's writing began to address issues such as the civil rights movement and the threat of nuclear war.[10] They started living together in early 1962, much to the disapproval of her family.[10] As Dylan's fame grew, Rotolo found the relationship increasingly stressful. She wrote: "Bob was charismatic: he was a beacon, a lighthouse, he was also a black hole. He required committed backup and protection I was unable to provide consistently, probably because I needed them myself".[11] "I could no longer cope with all the pressure, gossip, truth and lies that living with Bob entailed. I was unable to find solid ground. I was on quicksand and very vulnerable". [10]

Rotolo left New York in June 1962, with her mother, to spend six months studying art at the University of Perugia in Italy. She was known there as Justine Rotolo, having used an invented middle name to register as "S. Justine Rotolo".[12] Dylan's separation from his girlfriend has been credited as the inspiration behind several of his finest love songs, including "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright", "Tomorrow Is a Long Time", "One Too Many Mornings", and "Boots of Spanish Leather."[11][13][14]

Rotolo's political views were widely regarded as having influenced Dylan's topical songwriting. Dylan also credited her with interesting him in the French poet, Arthur Rimbaud, who heavily influenced his writing style.[10] The influence of Bertolt Brecht on Dylan's songwriting has also been acknowledged by Dylan as stemming from Rotolo's participation in Brechtian theater during their relationship. In Chronicles, Dylan describes the impact of the song "Pirate Jenny" while attending a Brecht show on which Rotolo worked.[15] Dylan's interest in painting can also be traced back to his relationship with Rotolo.

Rotolo emphasised her shared values with Dylan in an interview with author Robbie Woliver: "People say I was an influence on him, but we influenced each other. His interests were filtered through me and my interests, like the books I had, were filtered through him... It was always sincere on his part. The guy saw things. He had an incredible ability to see and sponge — there was a genius in that. The ability to create out of everything that's flying around. To synthesize it. To put it in words and music."[16]

Rotolo became pregnant in 1963 by Dylan and had an abortion.[3][17] Their relationship failed to survive the abortion, Dylan's affair with Joan Baez and the hostility of the Rotolo family.[10] Suze moved out into her sister's apartment in August 1963. They finally broke up in 1964, in circumstances which Dylan described in his "Ballad in Plain D”.[10]Twenty years later, he apologised for the song, saying: "I must have been a real schmuck to write that. I look back at that particular one and say, of all the songs I've written, maybe I could have left that alone."[18]

Later life, 1964–2011
Rotolo traveled to Cuba in June 1964, with a group, at a time when it was unlawful for Americans to do so.[19] She was quoted as saying, in regard to opponents of Fidel Castro that, "These gusanos [worms] are not suppressed. There can be open criticism of the regime. As long as they keep it to talk they are tolerated, as long as there is no sabotage."[20]

Rotolo married Italian Enzo Bartoccioli, a film editor who works for the United Nations, in 1967.[10][21] Together they had one son, Luca, who is a guitarist in New York.[1] In New York, Rotolo worked as an illustrator and painter, before concentrating on creating book art, making book-like objects which incorporated found art. [3] Remaining politically active, Rotolo joined the street-theater group Billionaires for Bush and protested at the 2004 Republican National Convention in Manhattan.[3]

Rotolo evaded discussion of her relationship with Dylan for decades. In July 2004, she was interviewed in a documentary produced by New York PBS Channel 13 and The New York Daily News; in November 2004, she made an unannounced appearance at the Experience Music Project, on a panel discussing Dylan's early days in Greenwich Village. She and her husband also were involved in putting on a memorial event for Dave van Ronk after the singer's death in 2002.

Rotolo appears in Martin Scorsese's film No Direction Home: Bob Dylan, a documentary focusing on Dylan's early career from 1961 to 1966. It played on the American Masters series on U.S. public television in September 2005.[22] She was also interviewed nationally in 2008 by Terry Gross on NPR's Fresh Air to promote her book, A Freewheelin' Time: A Memoir of Greenwich Village in the Sixties.[23]

Rotolo's book was published by Broadway Books on May 13, 2008. Rotolo recounted her attempts not to be overshadowed by her relationship with Dylan. She discussed her need to pursue her artistic creativity and to retain her political integrity, concluding: "The sixties were an era that spoke a language of inquiry and curiosity and rebelliousness against the stifling and repressive political and social culture of the decade that preceded it. The new generation causing all the fuss was not driven by the market: we had something to say, not something to sell."[24]

Rotolo died of lung cancer at her home in New York City's NoHo district on February 25, 2011, aged 67.[3][25][26]

^ The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia, 2006, pp. 592–594, Michael Gray, Continuum
^ Howard Sounes, Down the Highway The Life Of Bob DylanDoubleday 2001 ISBN 0-552-99929-6 P123
^  Grimes, William (March 1, 2011). "Suze Rotolo, a Face, With Bob Dylan, of ’60s Music, Is Dead at 67". New York Times. Retrieved March 1, 2011.
^ Rotolo described the circumstances surrounding theFreewheelin' cover photo in Rotolo, 2008, A Freewheelin’ Time, pp. 216–218.
^ Suze Rotolo Biography at the Internet Movie Database
^ Suze Rotolo (2008) A Freewheelin' Time, page 26
^ Rotolo discusses her political background in A Freewheelin’ Time, particularly pages 26–40
^ Suze Rotolo Trivia at the Internet Movie Database
^ Dylan, Chronicles, Volume One, p. 265.
^  "Suze Rotolo obituary”. March 2, 2011. Retrieved March 2, 2011.
^ a bWilliams, Richard (February 28, 2011). "Suze Rotolo obituary". Retrieved March 1, 2011.
^ A Freewheelin' Time, page 185
^ Heylin, 2000, Bob Dylan: Behind the Shades Revisited, p. 120.
^ Sounes, 2001, Down The Highway: The Life Of Bob Dylan, pp. 120–121.
^ Dylan, Chronicles, Volume One, pp. 272–276.
^ Woliver, Hoot! A 25-Year History of the Greenwich Village Music Scene, pp. 75–76.
^ Rotolo, Suze (2008). A Freewheelin' Time: A Memoir of Greenwich Village in the Sixties. New York: Broadway Books. ISBN 0-7679-2687-0.
^ Flanagan, 1990, Written In My Soul, p. 97.
^ The New York Times, July 1, 1964.
^ The New York Times, July 1, 1964 and August 19, 1964 issues.
^ Suze Rotolo Spouse at the Internet Movie Database
^ Internet Movie Database
^ Gross, Terry (interviewer) (May 14, 2008). "Suze Rotolo: Of Dylan, New York and Art". Fresh Air. NPR. Retrieved March 2, 2011.
^ Rotolo, A Freewheelin' Time, p. 367.
^ Greene, Andy (February 27, 2011). "Suze Rotolo, Bob Dylan's Girlfriend and the Muse Behind Many of His Greatest Songs, Dead at 67". Rolling Stone. Retrieved February 28, 2011.
^ Hoberman, J. (February 27, 2011). "Suze Rotolo, 1943–2011". Village Voice. Retrieved March 2, 2011.

Dylan, Bob (2004). Chronicles: Volume One  Simon and Schuster  p. 293. ISBN 0-7432-2815-4.
Flanagan, Bill (1990). Written In My Soul. Omnibus Press. ISBN 0-7119-2224-1.
Gray, Michael (2006), The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia, Continuum International, ISBN 0-8264-6933-7
Heylin, Clinton (2003). Bob Dylan: Behind the Shades Revisited. Perennial Currents. ISBN 0-06-052569-X.
Rotolo, Suze (2009), A Freewheelin' Time, Aurum Press, ISBN 0-7679-2688-9
Shelton, Robert (2003, reprint of 1986 original). No Direction Home. Da Capo Press. pp. 576 pages. ISBN 0-306-81287-8.
Sounes, Howard (2001). Down The Highway: The Life Of Bob Dylan. Grove Press. ISBN 0-8021-1686-8.
Woliver, Robbie (1994). Hoot! A 25-Year History of the Greenwich Village Music Scene. St.Martin's Press. ISBN 0-312-10995-4

External links


Susan Elizabeth Rotolo (November 20, 1943 – February 25, 2011), known as Suze Rotolo, was an American artist, but is perhaps best known as Bob Dylan's girlfriend from 1961 to 1964 and a strong influence on his music. Rotolo is the woman walking with him on the cover of his album The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, a ground-breaking street image by the CBS studio photographer, Don Hunstein. In her book, A Freewheelin' Time: A Memoir of Greenwich Village in the Sixties, Rotolo described her time with Dylan and other figures in the folk music and bohemian scene in Greenwich Village, New York. She also discussed her upbringing as a "red diaper" baby—a child of radicals during the McCarthy Era. As an artist, Rotolo specialized in artists' books and taught at the Parsons School of Design in New York City. A Freewheelin' Time: A Memoir of Greenwich Village in the Sixties [Paperback]
Suze Rotolo (Author)

SUZE ROTOLO (1943-2011)

So many people around the world read Suze's book, and told her how it had influenced their lives, memories, and dreams. Those sincere and heartfelt messages are now, too, a part of Suze's extraordinary story:

"I was born and now live in New York City, with interludes in Massachusetts and Italy.

A Freewheelin’ Time: A Memoir of
Greenwich Village in the Sixties is the first book I've written. It was also published in the UK in 2008, and the British magazine, Uncut, placed it on their top ten list of best non-fiction music books of the year. France, Germany, and Japan have also published A Freewheelin’ Time and their editions came out in 2010.

I am primarily a visual artist affiliated with the Medialia Gallery in Manhattan where a selection of my work is on permanent display. Images of my artwork can be viewed at their website under Artists: 

The work I make is known as Book Art, a term not easily defined. My definition is that it's a reinterpretation of the book as an art object, thereby altering the perception of what a book can be. I taught a Book Arts Workshop at the Parsons School of Design, in New York City, for a few years.

As for the world beyond my personal borders, in 2004 I joined the Billionaires for Bush, a street theater organization that took political activism seriously but took action with satire and panache. Their slogans were clever and to the point: Leave no Billionaire Behind, and Privatize Everything, are two examples. Participants chose a nom di guerre for themselves –the CEO was Phil T. Rich– and mine was Alla DaPie. At the huge demonstration in New York City protesting the Republican Convention, the Billionaires took to the streets in full regalia. Dressed to the nines, carrying signs declaring our loyalty to Bush/​Cheney, the Billionaires entertained the police, the press and the demonstrators. And in the end the billionaires have won, haven't they?"

A Freewheelin’ Time: A Memoir of Greenwich Village in the Sixties
Excerpt from Book Review April 26, 2008 by Stephanie Zacharek

Tangled Up In Dylan

Face it: The art -- or is it more of a science? -- of dissecting Bob Dylan is a man's game. Most of the Dylan scholars (both the smart and the lame ones), the rock critics who have collectively spent several lifetimes wrestling with his lyrics, the civilian gasbags who hold forth at dinner parties whenever his name is even mentioned, are men. I used to have an officemate who, whenever he wanted to take a break from doing actual work (which was shockingly often), would march into my office singing some random Dylan lyric and challenge me to name which song it came from. I know women who love Dylan's music as much as anyone else does, but I've never met one who felt the need to be a walking, talking sack of trivia.

So whether she knows it or not -- and I suspect she does -- Suze Rotolo has taken something of a risk in writing a memoir of the time she spent in the early '60s as the girlfriend of the Great Man. There are going to be people out there who think she's just cashing in on her role as a handmaiden to genius. But A Freewheelin Time: A Memoir of Greenwich Village in the Sixties is only partly about Dylan. Rotolo has written a perceptive, entertaining and often touching book about a remarkable era in recent American cultural history, about a way of living, of making art, that couldn't have happened at any other time or in any other place.

This is about as far from a juicy tell-all as a memoir can get: Rotolo does share some private details of the story of her romance with Dylan -- the two met in 1961, when Rotolo was 17 and Dylan was 20, and were a couple for some four years -- but her approach is so sensitive, discreet and affectionate that she never comes off as opportunistic. This is an honest book about a great love affair, set against the folk music revival of the early 1960s, but its sense of time and place is so vivid that it's also another kind of love story: one about a very special pocket of New York, in the days when impoverished artists, and not just supermodels, could afford to live there.

Rotolo was born in Queens, N.Y., in 1943, the daughter of politically active communists. Her father died suddenly, in 1958, and partly as a way of escaping her rather difficult mother, Rotolo established her independence early on, first taking day trips into the city with friends -- specifically, Washington Square Park, a gathering place for anyone interested in music, poetry and politics -- and eventually moving out altogether. She then lived with her aunt and cousin in Harlem and eventually found an apartment-sitting arrangement on Waverly Place in Greenwich Village.

Although Rotolo had heard Dylan perform at a small West Village club, she first met him at an all-day folk festival in July 1961, held at Riverside Church in upper Manhattan: "Whenever I looked around, Bobby was nearby. I thought he was oddly old-time looking, charming in a scraggly way. His jeans were as rumpled as his shirt and even in the hot weather he had on the black corduroy cap he always wore. He made me think of Harpo Marx, impish and approachable, but there was something about him that broadcast an intensity that was not to be taken lightly."

Dylan was, she says, "funny, engaging, intense, and he was persistent. These words completely describe who he was throughout the time we were together; only the order of the words would shift depending on mood or circumstance." Rotolo and Dylan immediately became inseparable, and not long after their meeting she moved into the small walk-up Dylan found on West Fourth Street. The headiest parts of the book detail their time there and the friends they made in the glory days of the folk music revival, among them singer-songwriter duo Ian and Sylvia Tyson and folk legend Dave Van Ronk and his wife, Terri Thal, a leggy, lanky, unconventional beauty who, on hot days, would greet guests at the couple's West Village flat dressed only in a white bra and panties.

Rotolo writes about Dylan's sudden and rapid ascension, but she doesn't underplay her own story, which is engaging in itself: When her mother and stepfather offered her the opportunity to go to school in Italy for six months, she made the wrenching decision to leave her boyfriend behind. (Rotolo includes quotes from some of Dylan's letters to her, which are deeply moving both for their unapologetic silliness and their unvarnished lovesickness.) She also details, conscientiously and without bitterness, some of the issues that led to the couple's eventual breakup. Rotolo, an artist herself, was completely clued in to the sexism of the folk scene (a feature of '60s counterculture in general). She began to shrink from the idea of being a musician's "chick" or, worse, his "old lady." She writes only glancingly of Dylan's romance with Joan Baez, which began when she and Dylan were still a couple: The episode was obviously painful for her, but she doesn't treat it as a major feature of her story. It's possible for women as well as men to be chivalrous, as Rotolo proves.

A Freewheelin' Time doesn't begin and end with Dylan: Rotolo also talks about her life after Bob, including an illegal trip she made to Cuba in 1964, as a way of protesting the State Department's travel ban to that country. (Rotolo, raised in a fervently communist household, was sympathetic to communist ideas only to a point; her ongoing questioning of those ideas is a recurring feature of her memoir.) And as the book's title says outright, Rotolo knows that the story of Bob Dylan is inseparable from that of a specific New York neighborhood. In one of the loveliest passages she describes the genesis of the famous photograph that graces the cover of The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, an image whose visual and emotional simplicity made it revolutionary, for album-cover art, at the time.

The cover of The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan shows an almost unbearably young-looking couple striding toward the camera -- toward the future -- through a corridor of parked cars and tallish buildings laced with fire escapes. There's slush in the street; this is New York in midwinter, after all. The guy in the picture, a skinny, nervous-looking kid, his head topped with a tall pile of curly hair, is instantly recognizable. But the girl, attractive and thoughtful looking, with a wide-open smile, holds the camera's gaze just as intently. Dylan fans, thanks to their stockpile of important trivia, have always known that this woman's name is Suze Rotolo. Now we know more than just her name.

Suze Rotolo, a Face, With Bob Dylan, of ’60s Music, Is Dead at 67
Published: March 1, 2011
Suze Rotolo, who became widely known for her romance with Bob Dylan in the early 1960s, strongly influenced his early songwriting and, in one of the decade’s signature images, walked with him arm-in-arm for the cover photo of his breakthrough album, “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan,” died on Friday at her home in Manhattan. She was 67.

Suze Rotolo with Bob Dylan on the cover of his breakthrough 1963 album.

Nicole Bengiveno/The New York Times
Suze Rotolo in 2008.

The cause was lung cancer, her husband, Enzo Bartoccioli, said.

Ms. Rotolo (she pronounced her name SU-zee ROTE-olo) met Mr. Dylan in Manhattan in July 1961 at a Riverside Church folk concert, where he was a performer. She was 17; he was 20.

“Right from the start I couldn’t take my eyes off her,” Mr. Dylan wrote in his memoir, “Chronicles: Volume 1,” published in 2004. “She was the most erotic thing I’d ever seen. She was fair skinned and golden haired, full-blood Italian. The air was suddenly filled with banana leaves. We started talking and my head started to spin. Cupid’s arrow had whistled past my ears before, but this time it hit me in the heart and the weight of it dragged me overboard.”

In “A Freewheelin’ Time: A Memoir of Greenwich Village in the Sixties” (2008), Ms. Rotolo described Mr. Dylan as “oddly old-time looking, charming in a scraggly way.”
They began seeing each other almost immediately and soon moved in together in a walk-up apartment on West Fourth Street in Greenwich Village.

The relationship was intense but beset with difficulties. He was a self-invented troubadour from Minnesota on the brink of stardom. She was the Queens-bred daughter of Italian Communists with her own ideas about life, art and politics that made it increasingly difficult for her to fulfill the role of helpmate, or, as she put it in her memoir, a “boyfriend’s ‘chick,’ a string on his guitar.”

Her social views, especially her commitment to the civil rights movement and her work for the Congress for Racial Equality, were an important influence on Mr. Dylan’s writing, evident in songs like “The Death of Emmett Till,” Masters of War” and “Blowin’ in the Wind.” Her interest in theater and art exposed him to ideas and artists beyond the world of music.

“She’ll tell you how many nights I stayed up and wrote songs and showed them to her and asked her: ‘Is this right’?” Mr. Dylan told the music critic and Dylan biographer Robert Shelton. “Because her father and her mother were associated with unions and she was into this equality-freedom thing long before I was.”

When, to his distress, she went to Italy for several months in 1962, her absence inspired the plaintive love songs “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right,” “Boots of Spanish Leather,”“One Too Many Mornings” and “Tomorrow Is a Long Time.”

Mr. Dylan later alluded to their breakup and criticized her mother and sister, who disapproved of him, in the bitter “Ballad in Plain D.”

Ms. Rotolo spent most of her adult life pursuing a career as an artist and avoiding questions about her three-year affair with Mr. Dylan. (He was, she wrote, “an elephant in the room of my life.”) She relented after Mr. Dylan published his autobiography. She appeared as an interview subject in “No Direction Home,” the 2005 Martin Scorsese documentary about Mr. Dylan, before writing “A Freewheelin’ Time.”

Susan Elizabeth Rotolo was born on Nov. 20, 1943, in Brooklyn and grew up in Sunnyside and Jackson Heights, Queens. Her mother, from Boston, was an editor and columnist for L’Unità del Popolo, an Italian-language Communist newspaper. Her father, from Sicily, was an artist and union organizer who died when she was 14.

Artistically inclined, she began haunting Washington Square Park and Greenwich Village as the folk revival gathered steam, while taking part in demonstrations against American nuclear policy and racial injustice. She adopted the unusual spelling of her nickname, Susie, after seeing the Picasso collage “Glass and Bottle of Suze.”

The famous photograph of her and Mr. Dylan, taken by Don Hunstein on a slushy Jones Street in February 1963, seemed less than momentous to her at the time, and she later played down her instant elevation to a strange kind of celebrity status as the girl in the picture.

“It was freezing out,” she told The New York Times in 2008. “He wore a very thin jacket, because image was all. Our apartment was always cold, so I had a sweater on, plus I borrowed one of his big, bulky sweaters. On top of that I put on a coat. So I felt like an Italian sausage. Every time I look at that picture, I think I look fat.”

The album, Mr. Dylan’s second, included anthems like “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” and “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right.”

After Ms. Rotolo returned from Italy — a trip engineered by her mother in a move to separate her from Mr. Dylan — the relationship became more difficult. Mr. Dylan was becoming increasingly famous and spending more time performing on the road, and he entered into a very public affair with Joan Baez, with whom he had begun performing.

Ms. Rotolo moved out of their West Fourth Street apartment in August 1963 and, after discovering she was pregnant, had an illegal abortion.

By mid-1964 she and Mr. Dylan had drifted apart. “I knew I was an artist, but I loved poetry, I loved theater, I loved too many things,” Ms. Rotolo told The Times. “Whereas he knew what he wanted and he went for it.”

In “Chronicles,” Mr. Dylan wrote: “The alliance between Suze and me didn’t turn out exactly to be a holiday in the woods. Eventually fate flagged it down and it came to a full stop. It had to end. She took one turn in the road and I took another.”

In 1967 she married Mr. Bartoccioli, a film editor she had met while studying in Perugia. The couple lived in Italy before moving to the United States in the 1970s. In addition to her husband, she is survived by their son, Luca, of Brooklyn, and her sister, Carla, of Sardinia.

Ms. Rotolo worked as a jewelry maker, illustrator and painter before turning to book art, fabricating book-like objects that incorporate found objects.

She remained politically active. In 2004, using the pseudonym Alla DaPie, she joined the street-theater group Billionaires for Bush and protested at the Republican convention in Manhattan.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: March 5, 2011

An obituary on Tuesday about Suze Rotolo, an artist best known for her romance with Bob Dylan, using information from Ms. Rotolo’s memoir and from her family, referred incorrectly to her mother’s professional background. She was an editor and columnist for L’Unità del Popolo, an American Communist newspaper published in Italian — not for the American version of the Italian Communist Party publication L’Unità. And although Ms. Rotolo’s maternal grandparents were from the province of Piacenza in Italy, her mother was not; she was born in Boston.

A version of this article appeared in print on March 1, 2011, on page B15 of the New York edition with the headline: Suze Rotolo, 67, a Face, With Bob Dylan, of ’60s Music.

No comments:

Post a Comment