This week’s “Girls are Cool” is a tribute to girls’ uncanny ability to crush a man. In this, we honor artist Suze Rotolo. Born in Queens, she stomped around Greenwich Village in the 60s where she met a then relatively unknown Robert Zimmerman who was just signed under the name “Bob Dylan” to Columbia Records. They dated briefly during the early 60s.
Born to proclaimed members of the American Communist Party, Suze had a deep effect on Dylan’s more political recordings and, specifically, in the writing of many of the songs that comprised his famed second record, Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, which I’ve now spent the last week listening to as part of my Year of Dylan (http://iknowyougotsole.tumblr.com/post/2700123958/the-year-of-dylan-heres-your-curriculum-every). Mainly songs like “Masters of War” and “Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall,” both largely considered to be included in the Dylan shortlist of masterpieces. Yeah, women can brainwash a man into being a freaking communist. Dylan admitted in a later interview that he checked out most of the lyrical content on the album with her. Yeah, she had him wrapped around her finger. Hardcore.
So when she decided to up and leave NYC for Italy to study art, it left little Bobby flattened and lonely. His despair and heartbrokenness can be heard in a few different songs in the album like “Down the Highway” (“My baby took my heart from me/ She packed it all up in a suitcase/ Lord, she took it away to Italy, Italy.”), “Bob Dylan’s Blues,” “Honey, Just Allow Me One More Chance,” but directly inspired two of the most poignant songs on the album that find Bob in probably his most vulnerable place in his short career: “Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright” and “Girl from the North Country.”
“Girl from the North Country” is an emotional crotch shot. Dylan’s so freaking heart-broken that his girl left his ass and went to Italy. You can hear it throughout the entire song. He just weeps and cries like a little boy. You’re soulless if you can’t hear it. As heartbreaking as it is, it’s still by far, the best song on an already colossal album. “Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright” emotes something completely different. It’s Dylan almost in a departure from the relationship. He’s conceding that the relationship might not last. There’s reluctance at first, but near the end, he sneers with a bitterness (“you just kinda wasted my precious time/but don’t think twice it’s alright”). Yeah, I gotta feeling it’s not alright, Bob.
What Suze was to Bob Dylan was a muse that would help in the creation of one his greatest records. Their relationship in the grand scheme of Dylan’s long career was very temporary, but it was long enough to stir Dylan and push him to greatness. Freewheelin’ is so very much a love record. It has it’s political moments, but in the end, it’s Bob Dylan trying to find the heart that Suze ripped from his chest like some fatality in Mortal Kombat. Dude got played hard. And that’s how girls are sometimes. Emphasis on sometimes. There’s a loving nature to women, but then in the end, boys need girls a lot more than girls need boys. Suze didn’t need little Bobby. She chose art school instead. Bob even toured England in hopes of hooking up with her while he was over there in 1963 and she had already moved back to the states. Bob, y’need to call first. That’s what the phone’s for.
So this is a tribute to women’s ability to excruciatingly stomp on a man’s heart. They’ll love you or leave you. Men fall into some deep and dark places over breakups. Women, not quite as often. Men turn into these self-destructive morons who pen it on their skin, drink themselves halfway to a diseased liver, take up hobbies like staring emptily at a television set, listening to Elliott Smith records. They’re just dumb. They don’t know how to deal with heartbrokenness. At least not well. Girls just go to art school.
At least Bobby was imaginative enough to turn his heartbreak into one helluva record. Girls are cool because they know how to crush a man and we’re powerless to their might.