Last week I finished an amazing book about Greenwich Village in the 1960s called A Freewheelin' Time. This weekend, I found out that the author of the book, Suze Rotolo, passed away on Friday. Her death also coincides with the 50 year anniversary of Bob Dylan's first arrival in Greenwich Village. I figured that such a synchronicity calls for a blog post!
Suze Rotolo might best be known as the girl on the cover of Bob Dylan's second studio album The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan. Ever since I was a kid, I always loved the cover of that album, thinking it was the perfect depiction of a young couple in love. The photo was taken on Jones Street near West 4th—very close to the Jefferson Market Library—and the place where Rotolo and Dylan lived during the 1960s.
But Suze Rotolo was so much more than just the muse Bob Dylan talks about in Chronicles. In A Freewheelin' Time, Rotolo talks about her life-long political activism which started while she was growing up in a Communist household during the Cold War. In the 1960s, Suze was one of the college students that radically flew to Cuba after America restricted travel. On her trip she met Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. Rotolo was also a huge activist for Civil Rights and did voter registration drives in Harlem.
In addition to political activism, Rotolo's book is an excellent snapshot of life in 1960s New York City. From being picked as the “Slum Goddess of the Lower East Side” by the East Village Other (named after the song by Ed Sander's socio-political/absurdist band The Fugs) to making puppets for the (still active!) Bread & Puppet Theatre, Rotolo's book will make you feel like you are right there, experiencing New York as it was during one of the most exciting times to be young and alive.
Check out her book and hopefully you will be as touched and captivated by her story as I was. Suze Rotolo can also be scene in Martin Scorseses's film No Direction Home.