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A Freewheelin' Time: Greenwich Village in the Sixties, Bob Dylan and Me

3.78  ·  Rating Details ·  2,392 Ratings  ·  218 Reviews

A Freewheelin’ Time is Suze Rotolo’s firsthand, eyewitness, participant-observer 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

Hardcover, 369 pages
Published May 13th 2008 by Broadway (first published 2007)
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Jan 28, 2009 Adrienne rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Jun 18, 2008 Geeta rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Derek
Shelves: gave-up
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
Apr 09, 2008 Ben rated it really liked it
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
Jun 06, 2008 Donna rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography
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 ...more
May 05, 2011 Nick rated it liked it
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 ...more
Aug 24, 2009 Dana rated it it was ok
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 "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 a si
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 ...more
Shannon Bett
Jul 24, 2009 Shannon Bett rated it it was ok
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 ...more
Jun 25, 2012 Cecilia rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Jun 06, 2009 Billy rated it liked it
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 ...more
Tom Choi
Dec 12, 2009 Tom Choi rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Sad-eyed Ladies and Thin Men
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
Mar 05, 2011 Tressa rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011, memoir
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
May 23, 2009 OMalleycat rated it liked it
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 ...more
Jun 19, 2008 Dennis rated it liked it
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 ...more
Aug 23, 2014 Chuck rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
blue-collar mind
Apr 28, 2011 blue-collar mind rated it really liked it
Shelves: direct-action
I grew up in the absent Bob Dylan years, when he largely disappeared from the scene in the 1970s, and also refrained from reading album credits, so grew up not knowing how many of my favorite songs were Dylan's. I was even a Beatle-basher, learned from a brother who was a heavy metal guy (Zeppelin, Thin Lizzy) so we were Stones partisans and words were less important than great guitar work. I even remember reading at the time the Doonesbury cartoon about Jimmy Thudpucker who is outside with his ...more
Jun 25, 2008 Robert rated it it was amazing

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
Pete daPixie
Jan 09, 2011 Pete daPixie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poptastic
Rotolo's memoir is written between a rock star and a hard place. Dylanologists can look elsewhere for deep revealing insights on Bob Dylan's early New York times. Published in 2009, Suze's book narrates the Greenwich Village scene through the early sixties. She's right there at the birth of the counterculture. Even though a lot of troubled water has flowed under the bridge, I quite like this work, she's not just an image on that album cover.
The book is peppered with personalities of the day. Not
Jan 25, 2015 Raymonds009 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 01, 2009 Paula rated it it was amazing
Suze Rotolo, Bob Dylan's girlfriend in the early 60's, offers an insightful perspective into the music, politics and life of the early 1960's in New York's Greenwich Village. She successfully accomplished her goal of capturing "the emotional truth that defined the experience" as she related her coming of age in the 60's story. We learn of her upbringing as a "red-diaper" baby in Queens, are exposed to intimate details of her years with Bob Dylan, and get a real sense of the Village and the folki ...more
Karen Seifert
Oct 20, 2009 Karen Seifert rated it liked it
As most people have stated her writing isn't the best, but once you get used to her run-ons and no use on puncuation in some instances it gets better. She also does jump around a lot in timelines.

This book reminded me a lot of "Popism" the book that Andy Warhol and Pat Hackett co-wrote with the amount of name dropping and stories about other people involved in the folk movement during the early 1960's. It took me a little while to get into "A Freewheelin' Time" but once I did I enjoyed the stor
Apr 04, 2011 Carmen rated it liked it
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 ...more
Jun 28, 2009 GraceAnne rated it it was amazing
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.
Jan 15, 2009 Kendra rated it really liked it
I loved hearing about Greenwich Village in the 60s. Suze tells it so clearly you feel like you were there. There's a lot of day-to-day and funny little anecdotes mixed in with her real feelings about her relationship with Bob Dylan and how his growing fame affected them. It's a charming story. I love her descriptions of her art and her time in Italy in the 60s too. My aunt studied abroad there at that time and I feel like I know better what it was like for her.
Sep 06, 2009 Ktb5t added it
A peek into a lost place and time. Although the marketing hook is obviously her connection to Dylan, the book is about more than their relationship. She doesn't seem bitter about their breakup, but she does point out on several occasions that she had more boho street cred than he did--i.e., she was a red-diaper baby and NYC native, he was a baby-faced kid from Minnesota.
Paul Secor
Dec 04, 2012 Paul Secor rated it it was ok
Read this in about an hour and a half in a Borders store (back when there were Borders). Not sure if it was worth that much of my time. At least, it brought back some memories of the time when I first listened to Freewheelin'.
Jan 17, 2013 Annabelle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I found this book fascinating. Even if you aren't into bob dylan and folk music I think you'll find it interesting as it explores the 60s both culturally and politically in vivid detail. I was engrossed! 10/10
Aug 10, 2008 mark rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: the creative
Jan 21, 2014 Tim rated it liked it
Meh...good when she writes about her everyday life, and tedious when she recounts the history of the times.
Sep 30, 2008 Douglas rated it it was amazing
A fabulous book illustrating how we should all be grateful to her for radicalising Dylan and demonstrating that she was a feminist before feminism. A page-turner and ends far too soon in her life.
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