Suze Rotolo, the former girlfriend of Bob Dylan pictured on the cover of his 1963 The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan LP died on Thursday after a long battle with cancer. She was 67.
Her friend and Village Voice writer Jim Hoberman called Rotolo "a talented artist... 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". The daughter of Italian Communists, Rotolo was born in Brooklyn and grew up in Queens. She later moved to the bohemian enclave of Greenwich Village where she met Dylan after a Riverside Church gig in 1961. She was 17.
"She was the most erotic thing I'd ever seen," wrote Dylan in his 2004 memoir Chronicles: Volume One. "She was fair skinned and golden haired, full-blood 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."
A dedicated civil rights activist, Rotolo has been credited with opening Dylan's eyes to the poetry of Arthur Rimbaud and Bertolt Brecht's Threepenny Opera. The pair remained together for the next three years during which time he penned some of his greatest songs - "Blowin' In The Wind," "Masters Of War," "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right" and "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall" among them.
The image that graces the cover of The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan was shot on 4th Street in Greenwich Village on a bitterly cold day in February 1963 by photographer Don Hunstein. It remains one of the most iconic album covers in music: intimate, relaxed and very cool.
Her relationship with Dylan ended in 1964 and in 1967 she married Enzo Bartoccioli, a film editor she had met while she was in Italy. The couple had a son, Luca. Rotolo spent most of her life shying away from discussing her time with Dylan, but in 2005 she made a rare appearance in the Scorsese-directed Dylan documentary, No Direction Home. In 2008, she published A Freewheelin' Time - a memoir of life in Greenwich Village in the 1960s - in which she called Dylan "an elephant in the room of my life."
MOJO's thoughts are with her family and friends