Bob Dylan and the Girl

You probably know this song.  If you don't much like Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash did it; and if you don't like either of them, I've never met you.

Who is the girl?

History preserves her name.  She was Suze Rotolo:  "an American artist, but... perhaps best known as  Bob Dylan's girlfriend between 1961 and 1964 and a strong influence on his music."  She died, at 67, of lung cancer.

If you're like anyone, she is the one who grabs your eye when you look at the cover.  He looks like nobody; yet she was the influence, and he was the genius.  She didn't do anything we readily know of her own.  Most Americans could name another two or three of Dylan's songs; those of his generation, ten or more.

There's a lesson here, and it's an important one.  I'm not sure quite how to formulate it.  It seems improper, and insufficient, to say simply:  "The girl matters."  But she does, and surely more than we have any way to articulate.  She walked with him once, in a lane:  and he wrote songs for her.


E Hines said...

I once loved a woman.

That pretty much sums up your lesson, maybe, Grim. The unrequited nature of the love probably had an impact, too, but from my own experience, I'm not convinced it was stronger than...requitement...just different.

Incidentally, The King did this, too ( ), but I have to concede that his uptempo version doesn't work as well as Cash's. Dylan was a great poet, but he couldn't sing any better than me--and when I, umm, caterwaul, the dogs head for the hills.

Eric Hines

Anonymous said...

I learned it from hearing Gordon Lightfoot, which shows once again that Dylan writes good stuff. But he still can't sing.


Grim said...

Well, now, Mr. Hines: you can't cite Elvis without citing Jerry Reed, that good old boy from Atlanta, Georgia. I'm not sure it's quite the same song, though, even if it has the same words.

E Hines said... can't cite Elvis without citing Jerry Reed....

I believe I just did. [g]

The fact is, though, I've never been much of a fan of Jerry, even though a lot of Elvis' work was contemporaneous with Jerry if not outright covers of his stuff. But The King did the same work songs, by and large, better. Some of that was talent, some of that was better production values and production crews.

Eric Hines