Bob Dylan and the Spanish Civil War

February 28, 2011
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Suze Rotolo, 1943 – 2011

The press is reporting the sad news of the death of Suze Rotolo, the American artist, teacher and political activist who was Bob Dylan’s companion and muse in the early 1960s.  Rotolo is frequently credited with Dylan’s awakening to politics.  According to one obituary she took the “then fairly apolitical singer to Congress of Racial Equality Meetings and [taught ] him about the civil rights movement.  ‘A lot of what I gave him was a look at how the other half lived –left wing things that he didn’t know,’ [Rotolo] said” of Dylan. She worked as a counselor at Camp Kinderland.  While reading some of these obituaries, I began to wonder:  where did Rotolo get her politics?

Rotolo’s mother, according to Wikipedia, Mary Teresa Pezzati was the daughter of Italian immigrants.  It turns out she met the musical prodigy and future Lincoln volunteer  Conlon Nancarrow in Boston in the early 1930s.  “She traveled to Spain supposedly to report on the Spanish Civil War but she was, in fact, working for the communists as a courier between Spain and Italy supplying American passports for Italian communists so that they could leave Italy and join the International Brigades fighting in Spain.”

I’m hoping that Suze’s memoir:  “A Freewheeling Time” might contain more information about this connection.  Stay tuned.

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One Response to “ Bob Dylan and the Spanish Civil War ”

  1. Bert Schultz on October 13, 2016 at 11:07 pm

    Suze Rotolo was also involved with the Progressive Labor Movement which got kicked out of the CP for being too “adventurist” and pro China. It went on to become the Progressive Labor Party. Early “Dylanology” was conducted in the analysis of his lyrics in PL Magazine in 1964 or so.

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