Suze Rotolo’s A Freewheelin’ Time takes you back to the 60’s in the Greenwich Village

By Stephen Pate – I’m re-reading Suze Rotolo’s memoir this August, which speaks to how cold and wet this summer has been.

Rotolo was Bob Dylan’s first NYC girlfriend and the girl on his arm on the cover of Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan.

Rotolo and Dylan had a passionate but on-and-off love affair that lasted from 1961 until after the recording of Highway 61 Revisited.

Suze Rotolo was not just the source for many of Dylan’s early songs. She also helped develop Dylan’s social conscience with her interest in worker’s rights and the Civil Rights movement.

A Freewheelin’ Time: A Memoir of Greenwich Village in the Sixties – the title says it all. This is more than a book about Rotolo and Dylan. It’s a Who’s-Who of the Greenwich Village folk scene.

Late this afternoon I was reading the chapter on the famous concert at Gerde’s that Robert Shelton wrote up in the New York Times. Shelton’s review effectively launched Bob Dylan into the mainstream of the American consciousness. See No Direction Home by Robert Shelton, Review for more about that book.

The Greenbrier Boys, a bluegrass folk trio with John Herald, Ralph Rinzler and Bob Yellin, were on the same bill with Dylan. They were bigger stars at the time but sadly few people remember them today.

I sprung up from my chair and decided to listen to their album Ragged But Right, while reading the chapter. It’s a great bluegrass album from some city boys who mastered bluegrass before it became popular.

Suze Rotolo / Bob Dylan circa 1962 (photo credit Don Hunstein @ Sony Music)

Looking through my old albums, The Greenbrier Boys was not in alphabetic or any other order. Rats, my good idea was dashed. Where it should have been was The Essential Ramblin’ Jack Elliot, a two record re-release by Vanguard which I see is out again as a CD.

Good enough and I put it on the turntable.

My 30-year-old turntable is like Nellybelle, Roy Roger’s jeep. You have to bang it, thump it, yank on the arm and start the dang thing spinning by hand.

There she goes and we’re listening to Ramblin’ Jack Elliot, one of Dylan’s early Village friends, singing Rambling Gambler. Enjoy the song.

As for Suze Rotolo, well she died this year which makes me kinda sad. So I’m enjoying the bittersweet memories of her life in the 1960’s, while thinking about my life in those times.

It’s a good book and worth reading. Suze Rotolo brings back so many memories in her easy-going and evocative book.

A Freewheelin’ Time: A Memoir of Greenwich Village in the Sixties

Note – to my regular readers you will note the limited number of stories this summer. No, I’m not lazy. Two months ago I broke my leg. It was a serious break. Between being laid up and trying to get better, I lost that daily dash of writer’s creativity.  All things must pass and summer and my convalescence will be over. Cheers. SP.

PS – later after supper I found Ragged But Right – it will be tomorrow’s treat.

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