In memory of Suze Rotolo, immortalized on the cover of  The Freewheelin Bob Dylan and in many of his early songs like Don’t Think Twice

Suze Rotolo with Bob Dylan captured on the cover of The Freewheelin Bob Dylan

Suze Rotolo, one of Bob Dylan’s most famous girlfriends, has died after a long illness at 67. “Village Voice critic Jim Hoberman wrote that she died in her New York apartment “and the arms of her husband of 40 years, Enzo Bartoccioli”. BBC

Immortalized in many of Dylan’s songs on the 2nd, 3rd and 4th albums, she was featured on the cover of The Freewheelin Bob Dylan, a scene brought back to life in the Tom Cruise movie Vanilla Sky.

Rotolo was the girl in Dylan songs like Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right, Boots of Spanish Leather and Tomorrow Is a Long Time.

His later breakup with her was the source of Ballad in Plain D.

Rotolo was 17 when started a tempestuous relationship with Dylan in 1962. Dylan was barely in New York when they met at a party Gerde’s Folk City, an Italian bar in Greenwich Village, NYC. (corrected research)

“Right from the start I couldn’t take my eyes off her,”  Bob Dylan wrote in Chronicles his autobiography. ”

She was the most erotic thing I’d ever seen. She was fair skinned and golden haired, full-blooded 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.”

Rare Don’t Think Twice video. iOS version later in the article.


Rotolo’s family were left-wing unionists who encouraged Dylan’s an early interest in social advocacy and civil rights.

“In the summer of 1962 Rotolo took a long trip to Italy, leaving Dylan alone and heartbroken in New York. During this period he penned “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right,” “Boots of Spanish Leather” and “Tomorrow Is A Long Time” — all bittersweet love songs about Rotolo. She returned in January of 1963, and weeks later Columbia records send photographer Don Hunstein to shoot the cover of The Freehweelin’ Bob Dylan. The young couple walked up and down Jones Street for a few minutes while Hunstein snapped shots. “Bob stuck his hands in the pockets of his jeans and leaned into me,” Rotolo wrote in her 2009 book A Freewheelin’ Time: A Memoir of Greenwich Village in the Sixties. “We walked the length of Jones Street facing West Fourth with Bleecker Street at our backs. In some outtakes it’s obvious that we were freezing; certainly Bob was, in that thin jacket. But image was all. As for me, I was never asked to sign a release or paid anything. It never dawned on me to ask.” (Rolling Stone)

Rotolo was artistic in her own right and chaffed under Dylan’s rising star. The affair was on-again, off-again until it became apparent to Rotolo that Dylan was also seeing Joan Baez.

“I could no longer cope with all the pressure, gossip, truth and lies that living with Bob entailed,” Rotolo wrote in her autobiography A Freewheelin’ Time: A Memoir of Greenwich Village in the Sixties.

Village Voice wrote “Suze Rotolo was a talented artist (the maker of artist books and delicate book-like objects), as well as an illustrator, a sometime activist, an erstwhile East Village Other slum goddess, a devoted wife, a proud mother, a poet’s muse, a good comrade, and late in her too-short life, a published author. She was intensely private but as the radiant young woman on the cover of The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, she became a legendary figure and even a generational icon. Just writing that I can hear her annoyed chortle–although she did humorously allow, after years of dodging rabid Dylanologists, that she was some sort of “artifact.” Village Voice

Copyrights – Dylan cover Sony/Columbia, video D.A. Pennabaker