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Episode 61: Suze Rotolo

Bob Dylan & Suze Rotolo photographed by Don Hunstein, NYC 1963

This week Lynx takes you Greenwich Village in the 1960’s where poetry, politics and folk music take center stage. As a “red diaper baby” with 2 Communist parents, political activism was built into Suze’s DNA. As a young teenager Suze Rotolo began hanging out in Greenwich Village with other like-minded friends and was soon a fixture at clubs such as Gerdes Folk City, The Gaslight, Kettle of Fish and The Bitter End. Places that launched the careers of many folk singers such as Dave Van Ronk, Judy Collins, Peter, Paul & Mary, Odetta and of course Bob Dylan.

When remembering their first encounter, Bob said “I couldn’t take my eyes off her. She was the most erotic thing I’d ever seen. We started talking and my head started to spin. Cupids arrow had whistled past my ears before, but this time it hit me in the heart and the weight of it dragged me overboard.” Just like that Dylan met his first, and most important Muse. Bob had only recently moved to NYC from his small town in Minnesota and it was through Suze that he would not only discover many of the poets and writers that would greatly influence his work but also learn about the political issues he would soon be known for writing about.

But as Dylan began to make a name for himself Suze could feel hers being diminished. “All that was offered to a musicians girlfriend in the early 60’s was a role as her boyfriend’s “chick”, a string on his guitar. In the case of Bob’s rising fame, I would be gatekeeper, one step closer to an idol. People would want to know me just to get closer to him. My significance would be based on his greater significance. That idea did not entice.”

But Suze was much more than just a string on Dylan’s guitar. Or the girl walking down the street with him on the cover of A Freewheelin’ Time. In 2008 she published her fantastic memoir A Freewheelin’ Time: A Memoir of Greenwich Village in the Sixties. Tune in to hear all about her journey.