Wednesday, 8 June 2011
Dylan's girlfriend for three years during the early 60s, Rotolo was the daughter of American Communists, and it was this unusual upbringing that shaped her values. She had an innate wish to explore and question American cultural and civil matters.
With this background, it's not surprising she wouldn't lose her identity to Dylan during their close and mutually beneficial relationship.
Her creativity and interests continued to develop during their time together. In fact, she introduced Dylan to the work of French poet Arthur Rimbaud, and it was during her time as a theatre lover and set designer that she pointed him to Brecht. They were both writers that were to be forceful influences on his own work.
Rotolo, increasingly worn down by a need for individuality in the midst of an escalating and claustrophobic fame package, moved further into an interest in civil rights, and ultimately away from Dylan. Torn, she chose further study over loyalty to him and eventually, unsure of a future with a dreamy and evasive man, she left to study in Italy for six months. During this time, Dylan wrote 'don't think twice, it's alright' about her.
In her excellent autobiography A Freewheelin' Time: A Memoir of Greenwich Village in the Sixties she accounts for their break-up gracefully. When Dylan began spending more time with Baez - professionally at first, and then casually but totally, she covers the events without bitterness; this being only a small part of her story.
Rotolo had a talent for writing and she wrote about her life easily and lucidly. In terms of her career, her book art sold until the end of her life.
A New Yorker and the girlfriend of a legend, she was foremost a child of immigrants – those who had had it tough, and consequently she never lost that feeling of being on the periphery. She said of her difficult childhood: 'But it's not until adulthood that you realise how cruel life is', and here her sadness is shown in her choice of words - not 'can be' but 'is'. She always felt she needed to work that little bit harder and not forget how to be in control of her own future.
Suze Rotolo (born November 20th, 1943)