HENRY DILTZ, AFP/Getty Images When Rhode Island's Newport Jazz Festival…
- Posted on Feb 28th 2011 11:50AM by Brian Voerding
Suze, as she was better known, was born and raised in New York City to radical activist parents. Dylan met her backstage at a concert in 1961 when Rotolo was 17, according to his 2004 memoir, 'Chronicles: Volume I.' "Right from the start I couldn't take my eyes off her," Dylan wrote of the meeting. "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."
They moved in together in 1962, and Dylan often used Rotolo and her parents' history of activism as inspiration as he turned toward penning more politically minded lyrics. That summer, Rotolo traveled to Italy to study and at one point considered staying indefinitely, a decision that inspired a lonely Dylan to compose a number of wrenching songs, including 'Boots of Spanish Leather,' 'Tomorrow Is a Long Time' and 'Don't Think Twice.'
Rotolo returned, but by the following year she grew overwhelmed by both Dylan's increasing fame and the rumors that surrounded him, including one that he was seeing folk singer Joan Baez on the side. She left him in late 1963, just months after 'The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan,' was released, the cover photograph featuring her and Dylan snuggling as they walked a wintry New York street.
Rotolo was intensely private and generally refused to speak of Dylan in the decades following their breakup. She made one notable exception in 2005, when she agreed to be interviewed for Martin Scorsese's documentary 'No Direction Home,' a chronicle of Dylan's rise to fame in the '60s.
In 2009 she wrote a book, called 'A Freewheelin' Time: A Memoir of Greenwich Village in the Sixties,' that largely focused on building a post-Dylan life. She only briefly discussed the relationship and called Dylan "the elephant in the room of my life."
Rotolo is survived by her husband, as well as one son they had together, Luca, a musician. Funeral arrangements have not been announced.