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A Freewheelin’ Time is Suze Rotolo’s firsthand, eyewitness, account of the immensely creative and fertile years of the 1960s, just before the circus was in full swing and Bob Dylan became the anointed ringmaster. It chronicles the back-story of Greenwich Village in the early days of the folk music explosion, when Dylan was honing his skills and she was in the ring with him A Freewheelin’ Time is Suze Rotolo’s firsthand, eyewitness, account of the immensely creative and fertile years of the 1960s, just before the circus was in full swing and Bob Dylan became the anointed ringmaster. It chronicles the back-story of Greenwich Village in the early days of the folk music explosion, when Dylan was honing his skills and she was in the ring with him. A shy girl from Queens, Suze Rotolo was the daughter of Italian working-class Communists. Growing up at the start of the Cold War and during McCarthyism, she inevitably became an outsider in her neighborhood and at school. Her childhood was turbulent, but Suze found solace in poetry, art, and music. In Washington Square Park, in Greenwich Village, she encountered like-minded friends who were also politically active. Then one hot day in July 1961, Suze met Bob Dylan, a rising young musician, at a folk concert at Riverside Church. She was seventeen, he was twenty; they were young, curious, and inseparable. During the years they were together, Dylan was transformed from an obscure folk singer into an uneasy spokesperson for a generation. Suze Rotolo’s story is rich in character and setting, filled with vivid memories of those tumultuous years of dramatic change and poignantly rising expectations when art, culture, and politics all seemed to be conspiring to bring our country a better, freer, richer, and more equitable life. She writes of her involvement with the civil rights movement and describes the sometimes frustrating experience of being a woman in a male-dominated culture, before women’s liberation changed the rules for the better. And she tells the wonderfully romantic story of her sweet but sometimes wrenching love affair and its eventual collapse under the pressures of growing fame. A Freewheelin’ Time is a vibrant, moving memoir of a hopeful time and place and of a vital subculture at its most creative. It communicates the excitement of youth, the heartbreak of young love, and the struggles for a brighter future.


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A Freewheelin’ Time is Suze Rotolo’s firsthand, eyewitness, account of the immensely creative and fertile years of the 1960s, just before the circus was in full swing and Bob Dylan became the anointed ringmaster. It chronicles the back-story of Greenwich Village in the early days of the folk music explosion, when Dylan was honing his skills and she was in the ring with him A Freewheelin’ Time is Suze Rotolo’s firsthand, eyewitness, account of the immensely creative and fertile years of the 1960s, just before the circus was in full swing and Bob Dylan became the anointed ringmaster. It chronicles the back-story of Greenwich Village in the early days of the folk music explosion, when Dylan was honing his skills and she was in the ring with him. A shy girl from Queens, Suze Rotolo was the daughter of Italian working-class Communists. Growing up at the start of the Cold War and during McCarthyism, she inevitably became an outsider in her neighborhood and at school. Her childhood was turbulent, but Suze found solace in poetry, art, and music. In Washington Square Park, in Greenwich Village, she encountered like-minded friends who were also politically active. Then one hot day in July 1961, Suze met Bob Dylan, a rising young musician, at a folk concert at Riverside Church. She was seventeen, he was twenty; they were young, curious, and inseparable. During the years they were together, Dylan was transformed from an obscure folk singer into an uneasy spokesperson for a generation. Suze Rotolo’s story is rich in character and setting, filled with vivid memories of those tumultuous years of dramatic change and poignantly rising expectations when art, culture, and politics all seemed to be conspiring to bring our country a better, freer, richer, and more equitable life. She writes of her involvement with the civil rights movement and describes the sometimes frustrating experience of being a woman in a male-dominated culture, before women’s liberation changed the rules for the better. And she tells the wonderfully romantic story of her sweet but sometimes wrenching love affair and its eventual collapse under the pressures of growing fame. A Freewheelin’ Time is a vibrant, moving memoir of a hopeful time and place and of a vital subculture at its most creative. It communicates the excitement of youth, the heartbreak of young love, and the struggles for a brighter future.

30 review for A Freewheelin' Time: A Memoir of Greenwich Village in the Sixties

  1. 5 out of 5

    Julie Ehlers

    A few weeks ago I listened to Blood on the Tracks while making dinner one night. It had been years since I'd listened to it all the way through, but listening to a great album after years away is always a fantastic experience: you're reminded that it's great for a reason. It's not just superb art but also a lot of fun to listen to. Suddenly I wanted to be reading a book about Bob Dylan. I had two in the house, A Freewheelin' Time and Positively 4th Street: The Lives and Times of Joan Baez, Bob D A few weeks ago I listened to Blood on the Tracks while making dinner one night. It had been years since I'd listened to it all the way through, but listening to a great album after years away is always a fantastic experience: you're reminded that it's great for a reason. It's not just superb art but also a lot of fun to listen to. Suddenly I wanted to be reading a book about Bob Dylan. I had two in the house, A Freewheelin' Time and Positively 4th Street: The Lives and Times of Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Mimi Baez Fariña, and Richard Fariña, and A Freewheelin' Time seemed like something my pandemic brain could handle. Suze Rotolo is the woman on the cover of The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan and was in a serious relationship with Dylan for a few years; her portrayal of Dylan seems honest but, as the subtitle implies, this memoir is more about the whole milieu of the Village in the sixties—the music scene and the activist/political scene. Rotolo was a visual artist, so some time is also spent detailing her years in art school in Italy. The writing was quite basic but it was fun to learn about this particular period of U.S. cultural history. While I was reading this I also watched Scorsese's 3-hour Dylan documentary, No Direction Home, over several nights, and if you decide to read this book I recommend you do that as well—it was fun and helpful to be able to put faces and voices to the many people the book mentions, including Rotolo herself. However, if i'm being honest it would be just as much fun to watch the documentary and skip the book altogether.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Lynx

    As a “red diaper baby” with two Communist parents, political activism was built into Suze’s DNA. As a young teenager she began hanging out in Greenwich Village with other like-minded friends and was soon a fixture at clubs such as Gerdes Folk City, The Gaslight, Kettle of Fish and The Bitter End. Places that launched the careers of many folk singers such as Dave Van Ronk, Judy Collins, Peter, Paul & Mary, Odetta and of course Bob Dylan. When remembering their first encounter, Bob said “I couldn’t As a “red diaper baby” with two Communist parents, political activism was built into Suze’s DNA. As a young teenager she began hanging out in Greenwich Village with other like-minded friends and was soon a fixture at clubs such as Gerdes Folk City, The Gaslight, Kettle of Fish and The Bitter End. Places that launched the careers of many folk singers such as Dave Van Ronk, Judy Collins, Peter, Paul & Mary, Odetta and of course Bob Dylan. When remembering their first encounter, Bob said “I couldn’t take my eyes off her. She was the most erotic thing I’d ever seen. We started talking and my head started to spin. Cupids arrow had whistled past my ears before, but this time it hit me in the heart and the weight of it dragged me overboard.” Just like that Dylan met his first, and most important Muse. Bob had only recently moved to NYC from his small town in Minnesota and it was through Suze that he would not only discover many of the poets and writers that would greatly influence his work but also learn about the political issues he would soon be known for writing about. But as Dylan began to make a name for himself Suze could feel hers being diminished. “All that was offered to a musicians girlfriend in the early 60’s was a role as her boyfriend’s “chick”, a string on his guitar. In the case of Bob’s rising fame, I would be gatekeeper, one step closer to an idol. People would want to know me just to get closer to him. My significance would be based on his greater significance. That idea did not entice.” But Suze was much more than just a string on Dylan’s guitar. Or the girl walking down the street with him on the cover of A Freewheelin’ Time. In her book she discusses not only their relationship, but also gives an insiders look at 60's Greenwich Village and the numerous political issues the were at the forefront of their world. I recently discussed Suze and her amazing life in an episode of my podcast Muses and Stuff. Click the link the head to our site, our check us out on iTunes.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Adrienne

    I have mixed feelings about this book but overall I liked it. On the one hand, the writing isn’t stellar and Rotolo bounces all over the place chronologically and thematically. I found myself often having to go back and figure out where we were in the time line (which isn’t a very accurate term because there is no “line” of time involved here). On the other hand, this book is extremely valuable for its insight into Bob Dylan. Rotolo’s is a unique perspective on Dylan’s transformation from an unk I have mixed feelings about this book but overall I liked it. On the one hand, the writing isn’t stellar and Rotolo bounces all over the place chronologically and thematically. I found myself often having to go back and figure out where we were in the time line (which isn’t a very accurate term because there is no “line” of time involved here). On the other hand, this book is extremely valuable for its insight into Bob Dylan. Rotolo’s is a unique perspective on Dylan’s transformation from an unknown musician to the phenomenon he became during the years they were together. Who else in the world could tell a better story about that? Nobody. If you love Bob Dylan and/or the Village, Rotolo’s stories are great. And if you don’t, then why would you read this book in the first place? Maybe one problem is that the book seems to be attempting too much. Is it Suze’s story? Dylan’s story? Greenwich Village’s story? The story of the sixties? Obviously they all overlap and each could and should appear in the story of the others, but there doesn’t seem to be a clear focus. At any given time, the focus is on one or another, with the others making little “cameos”. This lack of focus may have contributed to the overall chaotic feeling of the book. One thing is for sure--the subtitle of the book, “A Memoir of Greenwich Village in the Sixties”, is not completely representative of the book’s contents. One thing I found very interesting is that Rotolo mentions several times that she didn’t want to be the “supportive woman behind the great man”. She says she wanted to create her own success, separate from her role as the musician’s girlfriend. But isn’t it ironic that the jobs she did most often were things like building stage props and being in charge of sound or lighting for plays? Even when she was encouraged to be an actress and made callbacks, she turned away from it. She kind of filled the supportive role even when she was no longer with Bob. In the end, I gave the book four stars because it is very interesting (sometimes you have to skim to find the good stuff but it’s definitely there). It offers a unique look at Bob Dylan and contains some pearls of wisdom and insight about life in general. I especially liked how human Dylan appears through Rotolo’s eyes. So often, he is seen as an enigma, a God, some untouchable, unknowable genius, etc. But this book shows him as a romantic, a heartbroken lover, an image-conscious artist, a sensitive friend…a human.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Geeta

    I suppose the die hard Dylan fans amongst you will want to read this, but so far I'm finding it kind of dull. I'm still in the early pages, but I'm surprised. I'm a huge fan of Joyce Johnson's Minor Characters, and Hettie Jones' How I Became Hettie Jones, and I was hoping this would be just as good. We'll see. Update: I didn't finish it. I had to return it to the library, and felt no urgency to finish it by the due date, which I think reflects the lack of urgency in both the writing and the story I suppose the die hard Dylan fans amongst you will want to read this, but so far I'm finding it kind of dull. I'm still in the early pages, but I'm surprised. I'm a huge fan of Joyce Johnson's Minor Characters, and Hettie Jones' How I Became Hettie Jones, and I was hoping this would be just as good. We'll see. Update: I didn't finish it. I had to return it to the library, and felt no urgency to finish it by the due date, which I think reflects the lack of urgency in both the writing and the story itself. Having grown up in NY during the sixties, I have a fondness for books that evoke the fifties and sixties, when Manhattan was a reasonably interesting place to live. I like reading about these lives that were going parallel to mine, as if in some separate universe. But I found Rotolo's writing syntactically bland and took very little pleasure in her descriptions of place. If I ever come across the book again, I might give it another shot, but only if there's nothing else to read. I'm giving it two stars because of content.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Ben

    So, thanks to H and L, I managed to get a reviewer's copy of Suze Rotolo's new memoir "A Freewheelin' Time" and devoured it over the weekend. As Todd Haynes says on the back, this is a welcome perspective - finally, the voice of a woman at the epicenter of the 60's folk scene, speaking strongly and warmly and passionately about what she saw and what happened. So what prompted this amazing book? Why, after years of silence did she finally open up? In the "Acknowledgments" section at the end of the So, thanks to H and L, I managed to get a reviewer's copy of Suze Rotolo's new memoir "A Freewheelin' Time" and devoured it over the weekend. As Todd Haynes says on the back, this is a welcome perspective - finally, the voice of a woman at the epicenter of the 60's folk scene, speaking strongly and warmly and passionately about what she saw and what happened. So what prompted this amazing book? Why, after years of silence did she finally open up? In the "Acknowledgments" section at the end of the book she thanks Jeff Rosen who interviewed her for "No Direction Home" and says that he "opened the door to the past and gently led [her] through it." And so, in addition to my deep gratitude to Suze for opening up her life, some thanks also goes to Mr. Rosen. She does an excellent job of describing her childhood, her family, and life as a "red diaper baby" in Queens during the 40's and 50's. And she's able to weave all of that into her time in the Village, her time with Bob, and her life after Bob. She comes into focus as a real person with a poetic, but not naive voice. Her descriptions of life as a woman in a circle of artists - her frustration at being called a "chick" and treated like a "guitar string" on Bob's guitar - are amazingly accurate. The irony of life for women, during Civil Rights, being treated as second class even among progressives (folksingers, artists, etc.), is acutely observed. Her personal political journey is fascinatingly told as well - from the child of Communists reading "The God Who Failed" on the subway, to her thoughts about repression of artists under both capitalist and communist systems once she visits Prague and Cuba. The media is probably going to jump on a few key passages - namely the three paragraphs where she describes her pregnancy, and subsequent abortion of Bob's child. This occurred after she moved out of Bob's West Fourth Street apartment and she was living on Avenue B. Some early news reports suggested that she was going to shy away from addressing this directly, perhaps saying simply that she "lost" the child. However, the copy I have, doesn't dodge the issue at all. But like other sensitive topics in the book it's handled delicately. She describes Dylan, upon first meeting him, as "funny, engaging, intense, and.. persistent" and that those words completely describe him - only their order would shift depending on the situation. Sharp observations like this are throughout the book - she sees and feels keenly, then writes it well. The book is full of great, rich, stories - stolen moments. Dylan and Suze going to MOMA to see Guernica. How Suze and Terri Thal smoothed out Dylan's theft of Von Ronk's version of "Rising Sun." The route of their favorite walk home through the village - past Zito's bakery for late night bread. Other interesting tid-bits for Dylan-o-philes include: * Ian Tyson giving Dylan pot for the first time. * Watching Jack Ruby shoot Lee Harvey Oswald on live TV in her Avenue B apartment with Dylan and her sister Carla, then going to see Lenny Bruce a few days later - hoping he'd have some answers, some way to make sense of things - and realizing he didn't. * The way she describes her realization that Baez and Dylan were having an affair - and the pain of private events being made public. * The story of her time in Italy, why she went, how she felt, and excerpts from the often funny, very heartfelt letters Dylan sent her while there. * Stories of her and Dylan's friendships with other Village folks, including Dave Von Ronk (and wife Terri), Noel Stookey, Paul Clayton, Mell and Lillian Bailey, Phil Ochs.. with cameos by Bill Cosby, Woody Allen, Odetta, and the list goes on. Its not perfect by any means - sometimes the stories jump around a bit too much, or the descriptions are a bit perfunctory, or the focus is too much on her (ignoring for example her sister's record collection and efforts to promote Bob to Robert Shelton and others - described in Heylin's Behind the Shades). But that's all understandable - its her story after all. The book folds perfectly into Chronicles and Positively Fourth Street - providing a counterpoint, a fresh voice - full of strength and warmth and wisdom. It tells a story we haven't heard before, but needed to all along.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Donna

    In her book American Bloomsbury, Susan Cheever writes about the amazing proximity in time and place of the great writers and thinkers who came together in Concord, Massachusetts, in the 19th Century—Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne, the Alcotts, and others. She notes that such “genius clusters” seem to occur regularly throughout history. They represent every area of human endeavor, including the arts, philosophy, science, politics and social change. In A Freewheelin’ Time, Suze Rotolo documents just In her book American Bloomsbury, Susan Cheever writes about the amazing proximity in time and place of the great writers and thinkers who came together in Concord, Massachusetts, in the 19th Century—Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne, the Alcotts, and others. She notes that such “genius clusters” seem to occur regularly throughout history. They represent every area of human endeavor, including the arts, philosophy, science, politics and social change. In A Freewheelin’ Time, Suze Rotolo documents just such a phenomenon, which occurred in Greenwich Village in the early 1960s. The music that came out of that time and place moved and inspired a whole generation—my generation—and significantly changed the world. I was 13 in 1962, when I went to New York for the first time. My cousin Glenn gave me some albums by Joan Baez, and I was stunned by the power of her voice and words of her songs. Later, my frame of reference was shaped by the songs of Bob Dylan, Paul Stookey, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, and many others whose names I didn’t know at the time and probably still don’t. I fell in love with the folk music of Peter, Paul and Mary, Simon and Garfunkle, Judy Collins, Pete Seeger. At the same time—without associating it with the music I loved—I always yearned to see the place with the seemingly magical name of “Greenwich Village.” I had a powerful sense of having just missed something, but I didn’t know what. Suze Rotolo’s book finally helped me understand the mystique of that time and place. By the time I finally went back to New York and got to visit the famous neighborhood, everything had changed. It was 1972, and the poets and minstrels had moved on. It was August, and the temperature and humidity were both in the 90s. I saw a man in an overcoat sleeping on the street. I was too late. I went back to the west coast, to a culture I understood, and all these years, I wondered what I’d missed. Now--thanks to this remarkably forthright chronicle--I know.

  7. 4 out of 5

    KOMET

    Suze Rotolo has written a book based in part on her relationship with Bob Dylan, as well as one that recaptures the essence of a decade (the 1960s) that set in train both progressive-revolutionary and reactionary forces that transformed the world in ways that affect it to this day. Though I was born in the 1960s (in fact, the same year that the Beatles came to the U.S.), my memories of it are largely personal and seen as vignettes and random images as one would find in a photo album. So, I am th Suze Rotolo has written a book based in part on her relationship with Bob Dylan, as well as one that recaptures the essence of a decade (the 1960s) that set in train both progressive-revolutionary and reactionary forces that transformed the world in ways that affect it to this day. Though I was born in the 1960s (in fact, the same year that the Beatles came to the U.S.), my memories of it are largely personal and seen as vignettes and random images as one would find in a photo album. So, I am thankful for memoirs such as this which help to give me a more solid sense of what that time was really like. For Rotolo, "the sixties were an era that spoke a language of inquiry and curiosity and rebelliousness against the stifling and repressive political and social culture of the decade that preceded it. The new generation causing all the fuss was not driven by the market: we had something to say, not something to sell." Rotolo shares with the reader much of her early life in Queens as the youngest child of 2 leftist parents, her subsequent escape while in her teens (following the premature death of her father, an artist by training) to Greenwich Village, where she took in the burgeoning folk music scene and first met Bob Dylan early in 1961. It is a rich, fascinating, and well-told memoir. This is a book to be savored and read again when one seeks reaffirmation in the possibility of helping build a more open, just, and better society through artistic expression.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Nick

    Okay, I'm nostalgic about the Sixties. I enjoyed this memoir of Greenwich Village in the early 1960's--despite the cover photo and Rotolo's well-known status as Bob Dylan's girlfriend at the time, she writes about so much more than Dylan. This book covers, among other things, the Red Scare and its effect on left-wing families; the folk revival; experimental theater; the Cuban Revolution and the ban on travel to Cuba; and Rotolo's childhood and early adulthood. It's very engaging, and near the en Okay, I'm nostalgic about the Sixties. I enjoyed this memoir of Greenwich Village in the early 1960's--despite the cover photo and Rotolo's well-known status as Bob Dylan's girlfriend at the time, she writes about so much more than Dylan. This book covers, among other things, the Red Scare and its effect on left-wing families; the folk revival; experimental theater; the Cuban Revolution and the ban on travel to Cuba; and Rotolo's childhood and early adulthood. It's very engaging, and near the end she states a truth that needs to be stated now more than ever: the Sixties wasn't just about sex drugs and rock and roll, it was about making a better world.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Shannon Bett

    I have to admit, I only read this because it was cheap and I wanted to suck what juicy marrow I could about Dylan from it. There were a few anecdotes that brought to light the fullness of the Dylan/Rotolo relationship by filling in the gaps left from all the biographies I've read about him. However, I skimmed through the endless ramblings of Rotolo, who through her own words, seems stuck in the idea of proving to the rest of the world, herself and possibly Dylan, that she was more than his girlf I have to admit, I only read this because it was cheap and I wanted to suck what juicy marrow I could about Dylan from it. There were a few anecdotes that brought to light the fullness of the Dylan/Rotolo relationship by filling in the gaps left from all the biographies I've read about him. However, I skimmed through the endless ramblings of Rotolo, who through her own words, seems stuck in the idea of proving to the rest of the world, herself and possibly Dylan, that she was more than his girlfriend. I think this would have been obvious through the telling of her own stories but the "beat" language and need to "justify" herself as more than his girlfriend, took away from her interesting personal history. I am glad she told her story and maybe her need to "protect" Bobby kept her from divuldging the truth and complexity behind their years together or maybe the truth is, they weren't as complex as we would like them to be. Maybe they were just two teenagers in love during a time of historical significance. Either way, I think this book will sell simply to those neophyte's hungry for more information or insight into the myth, the legend and the man that is Bobby Dylan.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Cecilia

    I became fascinated with Bob Dylan, then even more fascinated with whom he was affiliated. I wanted to read Suze Rotolo's memoir to break down the myth of the legendary Dylan; I wanted to see what made him tick, I was curious to see what their relationship was like. As I read on, I began to relate more to Suze, as a woman understanding her position and the frustrations she dealt with during her time in her relationship, in her environment, etc. I'm not going to lie though -- I was hoping to find I became fascinated with Bob Dylan, then even more fascinated with whom he was affiliated. I wanted to read Suze Rotolo's memoir to break down the myth of the legendary Dylan; I wanted to see what made him tick, I was curious to see what their relationship was like. As I read on, I began to relate more to Suze, as a woman understanding her position and the frustrations she dealt with during her time in her relationship, in her environment, etc. I'm not going to lie though -- I was hoping to find out a little more about a Bob Dylan that I didn't know. Instead, she gives more insight into what it was like living in the sixties, which many people generations after (including myself) see as being a magical time, and then Dylan naturally flows into the picture. He was just part of the sixties environment, before/during his rise to fame...and Greenwich Village, being surrounded by the radiating creative energy from artists and musicians that inhabited the area...Now the sixties to me is like a precious artifact behind glass, forever someplace I wish I could experience during its prime.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Billy

    This was an enjoyable read. It covers much the same territory as Dave Van Ronk's recent memoir. But, of course, this one was written by Dylan's girlfriend of the time. (She's the one on the cover of "The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan.) There's some new insight into Dylan's rise in the early 60s, and insight into his personality, but, in many ways, Rotolo doesn't reveal much that is new. (In her defense, she seems to respect Dylan's privacy, or better said, the privacy of the relationship the two of the This was an enjoyable read. It covers much the same territory as Dave Van Ronk's recent memoir. But, of course, this one was written by Dylan's girlfriend of the time. (She's the one on the cover of "The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan.) There's some new insight into Dylan's rise in the early 60s, and insight into his personality, but, in many ways, Rotolo doesn't reveal much that is new. (In her defense, she seems to respect Dylan's privacy, or better said, the privacy of the relationship the two of them once had, so she is pretty restrained in her descriptions of their lives together, and of his shortcomings.) Basically, I love reading about this period, she was there, and she tells good story.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Tom Choi

    I was struck by the charity of Suze Rotolo's reflections on Bob Dylan. She strips her reminiscence of self-aggrandizement and tabloid-minded sensationalism. While Bob Dylan is still remains a bit of a mystery in the end (he was really that aloof all along), Rotolo remembers the little moments that sheds light on the Artist as a Young Man: the sweet love letters, the nights of cigarettes, coffee and conversation, and his confident, burning ambition. But this book is more than "Bob and Me." It is a I was struck by the charity of Suze Rotolo's reflections on Bob Dylan. She strips her reminiscence of self-aggrandizement and tabloid-minded sensationalism. While Bob Dylan is still remains a bit of a mystery in the end (he was really that aloof all along), Rotolo remembers the little moments that sheds light on the Artist as a Young Man: the sweet love letters, the nights of cigarettes, coffee and conversation, and his confident, burning ambition. But this book is more than "Bob and Me." It is a portrait of a Young Woman as an Artist, a story of an Idealist, and an engaging document of the spirit and characters of Greenwich Village in the 1960s. By the way, did you know that Bob Dylan and Bill Crosby crossed circles in the Greenwich Village cafe scene of the 60s?

  13. 5 out of 5

    OMalleycat

    Don't read this book expecting dish on Bob Dylan. Suze Rotolo rises above that. This book is just what the subtitle purports: a history of a time (the early sixties) and a place (Greenwich Village). Rotolo was more than a "singer's chick" and she provides some interesting insight on that role. Unlike Pattie Boyd in Wonderful Tonight, Rotolo was uncomfortable in the role of muse and unconditional support to her man. She excuses no misbehavior by citing his talent or his demons. Rotolo's voice is Don't read this book expecting dish on Bob Dylan. Suze Rotolo rises above that. This book is just what the subtitle purports: a history of a time (the early sixties) and a place (Greenwich Village). Rotolo was more than a "singer's chick" and she provides some interesting insight on that role. Unlike Pattie Boyd in Wonderful Tonight, Rotolo was uncomfortable in the role of muse and unconditional support to her man. She excuses no misbehavior by citing his talent or his demons. Rotolo's voice is strong and she was an interesting young woman in her own right. Consequently, this is a history of the art, theater, and politics of the era, as well as a history of Bob Dylan.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Dennis

    Because Suze Rotolo grew up in a family that supported the Communist party, it has always been assumed that she played an important role in influencing Dylan's social protest material, but there are very few details about this in the book. Rotolo states at one point that the autobiography is an "emotional" rather than a factual recollection of the time. The book does seem to get better when their relationship is troubled and especially after they break up. It takes Rotolo almost 300 pages to adm Because Suze Rotolo grew up in a family that supported the Communist party, it has always been assumed that she played an important role in influencing Dylan's social protest material, but there are very few details about this in the book. Rotolo states at one point that the autobiography is an "emotional" rather than a factual recollection of the time. The book does seem to get better when their relationship is troubled and especially after they break up. It takes Rotolo almost 300 pages to admit, like almost every other book out there about Dylan has stated, that he was basically a jerk.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Dana

    It would have been alright if it wasn't full of so much clutter. Sentences were mostly of the run-on variety...and strangely phrased. Rotolo also tends to riddle her writing with subtle Dylan references that end up sounding corny instead of poetic...like "we were both overly sensitive and needed shelter from the storm" or "Dylan was a painter searching for his palette." Also, how many times can you use "freewheelin'" as an adjective to describe yourself and the people you hung out with...in a si It would have been alright if it wasn't full of so much clutter. Sentences were mostly of the run-on variety...and strangely phrased. Rotolo also tends to riddle her writing with subtle Dylan references that end up sounding corny instead of poetic...like "we were both overly sensitive and needed shelter from the storm" or "Dylan was a painter searching for his palette." Also, how many times can you use "freewheelin'" as an adjective to describe yourself and the people you hung out with...in a single chapter? geesh. Few good stories in there though.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Erik Graff

    While there's much mention of Bob Dylan, this is basically an autobiography by his one-time girlfriend, Suze Rotolo. It is as well an homage to the 60s scene in Greenwich Village and to youth itself. Rotolo writes without apparent conceit, conveying the sense that hers is a true self-portrait--not deeply analytical, but true, even familiar. I've known persons like Suze Rotolo. I read much of Rotolo's story aloud with Chelsea Rectanus, owner of a local used bookstore--a pleasant shared experience.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Rand Rhody

    The merit of this book lies in the straight-up history of a specific era told by someone who was actually there. In painting her own landscape, Rotolo frees us from the caricature and idol-worship with which we have been bombarded elsewhere. It is boots-on-the-ground authentic, unlike the biased memories left us by biographers, historians, journalists, celebrities, and other assorted merchants. Told by someone who "has something to say, not something to sell."

  18. 5 out of 5

    Barbikat60

    I regret taking so long to finish this book. It turned out to be an illuminating and historical look back at life in NYC. As much as I was enthralled by Ms. Rotolo’s relationship with Bob Dylan, her life was far more interesting. I also respect Ms. Rotolo’s decision not to lapse into gossip but instead tell a story that resounds with beauty and lives meet and break away. This book is a must read especially for a look at life in Greenwich Village in the early sixties.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Chuck

    It's easy to understand why one of Bob Dylan's former girlfriends might want to capitalize on his fame, but when both the cover and the title of her book closely imitate Dylan's second, iconic record album jacket, readers' expectations for an insider's scoop on him are apt to be pretty high. If so, Suze Rotolo lets them down. Rotolo was (she died in 2011) a good person with an interesting life story of her own, but -- as her subtitle ("A Memoir of Greenwich Village in the Sixties") tacitly ackno It's easy to understand why one of Bob Dylan's former girlfriends might want to capitalize on his fame, but when both the cover and the title of her book closely imitate Dylan's second, iconic record album jacket, readers' expectations for an insider's scoop on him are apt to be pretty high. If so, Suze Rotolo lets them down. Rotolo was (she died in 2011) a good person with an interesting life story of her own, but -- as her subtitle ("A Memoir of Greenwich Village in the Sixties") tacitly acknowledges -- she has nothing particularly revelatory to say about the enigmatic Bob Dylan. Her account of her relationship with him doesn't really get under way until page 90, although her extensive prefatory material provides some insightful commentary on what it was like to grow up in New York during the McCarthy era, coming from a family of Italian immigrants who were Communist sympathizers. And Dylan is again largely absent from the memoir's final 150 pages, which focus on Rotolo's interest in the theater, and her growing political activism. Although Rotolo was an important influence on Dylan's early song writing, she graciously declines to take credit for any specifics, and while she occasionally views him with a critical eye, her overall attitude is one of acceptance and generosity. Dylan was obviously a powerful presence in Rotolo's early life, so much so that a considerable portion of her story addresses her struggle to define herself as an independent person, both during her time with him and beyond. He was only twenty, and she just shy of eighteen, when they met, although Dylan comes across as having a much firmer grasp of who he was and where he was heading. The next year, Rotolo took seven months off from their relationship, moving to Europe where she attended art school. And in the summer following her return to New York, she again left Dylan -- this time permanently -- because she "could no longer cope with all the pressure, gossip. truth, and lies that living with Bob entailed". Soon thereafter, she (and he) learned that she was pregnant, and she opted to have an abortion, a procedure that would not be legalized for another decade. Rotolo is a competent if unexciting and non-linear writer, but her book appears to have its underpinnings in a diary from which she doesn't want to omit anything at all. Some elements are welcome, e.g., her account of the cover photograph on Dylan's Freewheelin' album (the image on her book's cover incidentally, while obviously taken during the same photo shoot, is very similar but not identical). Moreover, Rotolo's book is nicely decorated with her own drawings, plus reproductions of period newspaper articles and photographs. But it is also padded with excessive name-dropping, and gratuitous descriptions of such things as her temporary fad diet and her cats. Despite the dizzying array of names, there is no index. There are other, more engaging books that better capture the flavor of the New York folk music scene during the sixties, e.g., David Hajdu's Positively Fourth Street, Patti Smith's Just Kids, and Dave Van Ronk's posthumous The Mayor of MacDougal Street. But for anyone wishing to construct a library devoted to the subject, A Freewheelin' Time would be a worthwhile inclusion. (Note: Goodreads manages to mangle its listing of Rotolo’s book in two different editions. One erroneously gives the subtitle as "Greenwich Village in the Sixties, Bob Dylan and Me", whereas another lists the title as "A Freewheeling Time", ignoring the fact that Rotolo, like Dylan, dropped the "g" in "Freewheeling".)

  20. 5 out of 5

    Cavett

    Suze Rotolo's recently published memoir tells what it felt like to make art and political theater in seminal 60s Greenwich Village when rents were cheap and love was free. Best known as young Bob Dylan's teenaged girlfriend, Rotolo chronicles what it was like to witness Dylan's epic path to fame during New York's progression in the 1960s from beatnik to Beatledom. When I heard on NPR about this book being thoughtfully written and chivalrous from a feminine perspective rather than another rock 'n Suze Rotolo's recently published memoir tells what it felt like to make art and political theater in seminal 60s Greenwich Village when rents were cheap and love was free. Best known as young Bob Dylan's teenaged girlfriend, Rotolo chronicles what it was like to witness Dylan's epic path to fame during New York's progression in the 1960s from beatnik to Beatledom. When I heard on NPR about this book being thoughtfully written and chivalrous from a feminine perspective rather than another rock 'n roll kiss-and-tell, I ordered it up immediately. She delivers the goods through the perspective of a lifelong New Yorker with the soul, whimsy and wisdom of a veteran artist. One of her many unorthodox takes on the folk scene includes dealing with the tyranny of having to perform folk music in the traditional style, undeviated from the original recording: "A folk singer who dared reinterpret a traditional song by adding a personal inflection of some sort was scorned as inauthentic. Yet most of these [scorning purist] performers were... middle-class city or suburban kids who had never been near a backwoods except at summer camp." Suze was active politically in support of civil rights and against the Viet Nam war, but not an ideologue. Getting tired of bandying about revolutionary-style jargon, she once blurted out to her compadres "that I was the only one among them who came from a genuine blue-collar, working-class family and that my father, who had worked in a factory, never referred to himself as 'a proletariat.'" The book features her personal drawings, clippings, photos and journal entries chronicling the sixties as a time of curiosity and rebellion against the conformity and repression of what had gone before. She talks about going to a drawing class and honing in on the spaces between objects. This focus works as a metaphor for Rotolo's book as she guides the reader through the spaces between events and behind scenes well covered by the media. Just about everything in this book happens before 1965, when the rest of fly-over America was just Beatle-ing up and catching wind of Dylan. For many generations to come, the marketing blitz was on, but as Suze Rotolo points out, "we had something to say, not something to sell." Her book captures the feeling of an eclectic community inspired from within rather than manipulated from without -- and without all the kumbayah of the Summer of Love schlock.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Robert

    This is a really good read--whether for a look back at the early folk scene in Greenwich Village (starring Bob Dylan, of course) or for a casual history of that still important time that spawned the "youth movement" in the U.S. The hook to read this book is that it is written by Bob Dylan's girlfriend during his early career. But soon into the book, the reader realizes that it is not going to be a tell-all about the famous singer with anecdote after anecdote exposing Dylan's life at this very cr This is a really good read--whether for a look back at the early folk scene in Greenwich Village (starring Bob Dylan, of course) or for a casual history of that still important time that spawned the "youth movement" in the U.S. The hook to read this book is that it is written by Bob Dylan's girlfriend during his early career. But soon into the book, the reader realizes that it is not going to be a tell-all about the famous singer with anecdote after anecdote exposing Dylan's life at this very crucial stage. So, should the reader continue? I wasn't sure if it would be worth the time investment to hear Suze Rotolo's story. I did continue on and am I glad I did. What we have here is the story of the '60's by a remarkable, sensitive, intelligent,loyal girl who refused to be swallowed up by the cult of celebrity worship so prevalent in our society today. Yes, it was certainly alluring for her to be Dylan's girlfriend--with all of its glamour and power-- but she knew that she would lose her soul and never discover her own self-worth if she were to remain with him, despite being in love with him (and he her). Rotolo writes in a breezy style with the vernacular of the early sixties. She captures well what is like to be a teen/young adult during any epoch and adds the specifics of the turbulent sixties. A long list of characters(most from the folk and music scene) make an appearance in this story: Dave Van Ronk, Ian and Sylvia, Joan Baez, Trini Lopez, Phil Ochs, John Hammond, Jerry Rubin, Raul and Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, Ramblin Jack Elliott to mention a few. My favorite anecdote in the book is a short one that reveals a most endearing quality of Rotolo. Speaking to an audience in Cuba just after the Revolution, she tells them that she is alienated with the constant use of the terms the proletariat, blue-collar workers stating that she was the only one among the American speakers who was actually from a blue-collar background. "My father,who had worked in a factory, never referred to himself as 'a proletariat'." Highly recommended for those who were young during this period, or anyone interested in the genesis and milieu of the young Dylan and his art.

  22. 5 out of 5

    blue-collared mind

    I grew up more in the absent Bob Dylan years, when he largely disappeared from the scene and also refrained from deeply reading album credits, so grew up not knowing how many of my favorite songs were Dylan's. (I was even a bit of a Beatle-basher, learned from a brother who was a heavy metal guy like Zeppelin, Thin Lizzy; we were Stones partisans and words were less important than great guitar work in those frantic and deeply narcissistic late 70s and early 80s.) ) I even remember reading the Do I grew up more in the absent Bob Dylan years, when he largely disappeared from the scene and also refrained from deeply reading album credits, so grew up not knowing how many of my favorite songs were Dylan's. (I was even a bit of a Beatle-basher, learned from a brother who was a heavy metal guy like Zeppelin, Thin Lizzy; we were Stones partisans and words were less important than great guitar work in those frantic and deeply narcissistic late 70s and early 80s.) ) I even remember reading the Doonesbury cartoon about Jimmy Thudpucker who is outside with his guitar while Dylan is inside in the jacuzzi and Thudpucker says, "Hey man, this article is calling you an Authentic American voice." Dylan's voice comes back, "Heck man, I only wanted it to rhyme." The rejoinder from Thudpucker's thoughts, "Now he tells us..." is exactly what I thought of Dylan. It took me a few years to realize my error; thanks be to the Grateful Dead. So sure, I had seen the record cover "Freewheelin Bob Dylan" at friends houses but never wondered who that woman was. As a matter of fact, I believe I assumed she was a model and the picture was just taken for the cover. Again, took me a few years to discover my error (you'd think I'd learn) and learned a bit about Dylan's girlfriend Suze Rotolo from others from those early days discussing him. Then I saw recently that she had passed away and that she had written a book about the years with Dylan and with the folkies in the Village and finally read it. Well done Suze. Well written in an informal way, low on the hazy admiration for those who later became wealthy and famous and clear on the everydayness of the life of these Bohemians. I see from some other reviews that those readers who scanned it for juicy tidbits of Dylan were disappointed. Those type of readers seem to be the ones that looked for and found God in his lyrics. Spare me. A successful life it seems, one where she contributed to her times and recorded them clearly as well. A must for anyone who really wants to understand how the 1960s (and everything after that) came to be and are not trying to find the definitive Dylan bio but instead want to read about a woman (who happened to know him) who simply lived. Rest in peace Suze.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Raymonds009

    I remember bacck in the day wondering what happened to Ms. Rotolo. All of the speculation about how close she and Dylan looked on the record cover and then she seemed just gone. Well I guess she wasn't. She simply worked out of the picture that we all had of her and by hook or by crook ended up with a mostly new existence. There is much here to like and little to quibble about. Her new path took her out of huge whirpool that was to become Dylan's life and the many permutations of the music world I remember bacck in the day wondering what happened to Ms. Rotolo. All of the speculation about how close she and Dylan looked on the record cover and then she seemed just gone. Well I guess she wasn't. She simply worked out of the picture that we all had of her and by hook or by crook ended up with a mostly new existence. There is much here to like and little to quibble about. Her new path took her out of huge whirpool that was to become Dylan's life and the many permutations of the music world that she had once been part of. Brava to her for finding her new life and the interesting places it took her to. The chronicle that she puts down here is highly memorable for me as we traveled to many of the same places. Yes, this is a lot of nostalgia for me and I suppose a big mystery to those under a certain age. Oh well, read it here and know that this was quite a fun, crazy, scary, (add your own) time to live in. I smiled. Maybe not a perfect book, but who wants that anyway. Thanks, Suze.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Tressa

    This was an interesting read, but I felt that Ms. Rotolo was holding back too much. And as other reviewers mention, the writing is somewhat disjointed; there were times I thought the story was moving into the future, and she'd be back in the past telling another anecdote. I did enjoy learning the story behind some of Dylan's more famous songs, but I wish there had been more about Bob and Suze's life together. I have always been under the impression that Suze was a trust-fund baby, but was surpri This was an interesting read, but I felt that Ms. Rotolo was holding back too much. And as other reviewers mention, the writing is somewhat disjointed; there were times I thought the story was moving into the future, and she'd be back in the past telling another anecdote. I did enjoy learning the story behind some of Dylan's more famous songs, but I wish there had been more about Bob and Suze's life together. I have always been under the impression that Suze was a trust-fund baby, but was surprised to find out that she comes from meager means. "Boots of Spanish Leather" will take on a different meaning when I hear it from here on out.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Victoria Miller

    A wonderful treatise to a remarkable generation and the ending of an amazing era in our country's history. And Suze Rotolo was not only sweethearts with Bob Dylan for a time, but she knew many people in the folk scene as well as in the arts who would become well known. Suze didn't need Bob Dylan to tell an amazing story of an amazing time (and those times really "...were achangin'" So glad that she took the time and made the effort to share her wonderful story and insights. And reignited some of A wonderful treatise to a remarkable generation and the ending of an amazing era in our country's history. And Suze Rotolo was not only sweethearts with Bob Dylan for a time, but she knew many people in the folk scene as well as in the arts who would become well known. Suze didn't need Bob Dylan to tell an amazing story of an amazing time (and those times really "...were achangin'" So glad that she took the time and made the effort to share her wonderful story and insights. And reignited some of those interesting times from my own memories. If you've ever wondered what the 60s were really like, read this book!

  26. 5 out of 5

    Carmen

    An interesting snapshot of the emerging folk music and alternative lifestyle scene in lower Manhattan on the cusp of the counter-culture revolution - from the perspective of Bob Dylan's one-time muse and girlfriend. The somewhat stilted narrative jumps around quite a bit, but the author's reflections on her Italian ancestors, her red diaper upbringing, the Village before it became forbiddingly expensive, and her first-hand recollections of the genesis of a lot of influential music make for a som An interesting snapshot of the emerging folk music and alternative lifestyle scene in lower Manhattan on the cusp of the counter-culture revolution - from the perspective of Bob Dylan's one-time muse and girlfriend. The somewhat stilted narrative jumps around quite a bit, but the author's reflections on her Italian ancestors, her red diaper upbringing, the Village before it became forbiddingly expensive, and her first-hand recollections of the genesis of a lot of influential music make for a sometimes entertaining read. Plus, there are some nice photos and images from the times.

  27. 5 out of 5

    GraceAnne

    This is such an elegant and bittersweet book. The girl we all wanted to be, on the arm of Bob Dylan in the Village, is a deeply thoughtful and very private person. She describes the music, the vibe, the life of the Sixties exquisitely. She is gentle with her memories of Dylan, whom she loved and who loved her, and is careful about what she shares. Her wrestling with her feminist feelings before there was a vocabulary for that, when women were "chicks", is quite powerful.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Ozawa

    Suze Rotolo is my new hero. She does dish a little bit about Dylan, but mostly it’s about her life growing up in NYC with a difficult mother. She has genuine affection for the people she met in the sixties.

  29. 5 out of 5

    J.S.

    The book written by the woman on the cover of the Bob Dylan album, and who inspired so many of my favorite songs - was so, so much more than that. I had no idea, until reading her memoir. She accomplished so many amazing things, and was far ahead of her time. If you’re curious about a strong woman in the ‘60s, who was also Bob Dylan’s muse during those years... it’s a must read!

  30. 5 out of 5

    Robert Maier

    Revealing story of how Dylan used Suze as a crutch in his most difficult pre-fame days. It's a story that is not often told. It is the story of the one left behind. It is a common story full of lessons.

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