Suze Rotolo, Bob Dylan’s ‘Freewheelin’ Girl,’ Dies at 67

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Suze Rotolo, who wrote "A Freewheelin' Time - A Memoir of Greenwich Village in the Sixties" about her life in New York and her time spent with Bob Dylan, died on Thursday.


Most people probably didn’t know her name. But any good Bob Dylan fan, especially admirers of his early work, knew her face.

Suze Rotolo was an early girlfriend of Dylan’s during his first days in New York. On Thursday, she died in her Manhattan home from lung cancer. But the 67-year-old artist has been immortalized on the cover of the 1963 album The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan as the girl clutching to the singer as they walked through a dreary, wintry Greenwich Village.

(More on Read TIME’s review of Dylan’s 2011 Grammy performance)

During their three-year relationship, Rotolo was the inspiration for a number of his early songs, including “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right,” a now-classic Dylan piece of break-up and defiance. Rolling Stone even credits Rotolo with helping form Dylan’s political awareness, presumably on issues like civil rights, which became a frequent topic for the singer in the ’60s.

Rotolo was notoriously private, especially in talking about her time with Dylan. But she finally opened up in 2005 for Martin Scorsese’s documentary No Direction Home. When the couple broke up, she soon married an Italian film editor, and the two were married until her death on Sunday.

(More on Read TIME’s review of historian Sean Wilentz’s recent book, Bob Dylan in America)