I wanted to read A Freewheelin’ Time as soon as I heard about it. I love Bob Dylan’s Positively 4th Street and I’d read that it was either written about the end of his relationship with Suze Rotolo, or the way some of the folkies turned their back on their rising star. Either way, A Memoir of Greenwich Village in the Sixties was always going to go some way to give a glimpse of the backdrop to the song that I like so much.
Despite the fact that there are a few other possible targets for the backlashing lyrics of the Positively 4th Street, I had it in my head that I wouldn’t much like Suze Rotolo and that I’d end up thinking that the book was her way of laying down her own lyrics or painting a new picture of the past. To an extent, that’s sort of true, but it’s not the whole story. I’d also read that their relationship had ended because she didn’t want to be overshadowed by her relationship with Dylan, which is talked about in the book, but surely in writing this book she has placed herself in the exact space she wanted to avoid.
However, putting all of that to the side, A Freewheelin’ Time is much more than a snapshot of the rise of Bob Dylan, it’s a chronicle of the counter culture and folk ideology of the sixties. Taking in equal rights, anti bomb and travel ban to Cuba protests, it pulls together a stunningly beautiful spirit that spread throughout the early sixties, reminding you of all the things that can be achieved when people move in the right direction at the right time.
It is this chronicle that makes the book so fascinating. The times really did change; it’s just sad that the spirit that drove that change isn’t as present now as it was then.
The other saving grace of the book is that it is far more the story of Suze Rotolo and Greenwich Village of the sixties than it is a Dylan biography; introducing all of the people that helped to build the lore of the New York City folk scene.
The only downers in the book are Suze’s ramblings on Dylan as “image is everything” (for most people it’s just getting dressed) and the omission of Enzo in the face of Baez.
A Memoir of Greenwich Village in the Sixties is a cool read, set against a massive skyline. It’ll remind you that there’s more to life than just existing.
Suze Rotolo’s A Freewheelin’ Time review: 4.5/5