I bet The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan album cover stirs a lot of good memories in a lot of people. It does for me, and I arrived late to the folk scene. In fact, Freewheelin' was released two years before I was even born. But I've loved poetry and rhymes since I first learned to read, and I think that's why folk music appealed to me when most of my peers were listening to Madonna and A Flock of Seagulls. The purity of a story comes through so clearly in a folk song.
In the '80s my dad bought me a 1967 Toyota Corolla and had it painted candy apple red. For years while I was building up my record collection, I would hop in that Toyota just about every Saturday and cruise down Shannon Road, headed for the Bessemer Flea Market where I would scour the booths for old folk albums. Freewheelin' was one of the many scratchy treasures I found there.
What's appealing about this album cover is how intimate it is: a candid photograph of a couple walking through the streets of New York City. That's Bob Dylan's girl at that time—17-year-old Suze Rotolo—hanging on to his arm. They say she was his muse for a while, and that you can pick out pieces of her in the classic Dylan songs "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right," "One Too Many Mornings," "Tomorrow Is a Long Time," "Boots of Spanish Leather," and the harsh break-up song, "Ballad in Plain D."
Upon first laying eyes on her, Dylan said she was the most erotic thing he had ever seen, a "fair skinned and golden haired, full-blood Italian." They dated for three years, and then Dylan moved on to Joan Baez and soon after married Sara Lownds. In 1967 Rotolo married Italian film director Enzo Bartoccioli. Rotolo died February 24 after a long battle with lung cancer. She is survived by her husband, sister, and son, Luca.
If you want to know more about the smiling girl on the Dylan album cover, she published her memoir, A Freewheelin' Time: A Memoir of Greenwich Village in the Sixties, in 2008.