Helpless Dancer

The Endless Note

Suze Rotolo

Bob Dylan‘s former girlfriend Suze Rotolo has died aged 67.

Rotolo, who passed away on February 24, went out with Dylan in the early 60s, and was the inspiration for some of his best-known songs including ‘Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right’, ‘Tomorrow Is A Long Time’ and ‘Boots Of Spanish Leather’.

She appears alongside Dylan on the cover of his 1963 album ‘The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan’ (pictured).

Rotolo is also credited with turning Dylan onto politics, as well as influencing his painting.

According to Village Voice, Rotolo died of a long-term illness at her New York home. She is survived by her husband of 40 years, Enzo Bartoccioli.

Rotolo rarely discussed Dylan in public, although she did take part in Martin Scorsese‘s 2005 documentary No Direction Home, and wrote a memoir about her youth called A Freewheelin’ Time’ in 2008.

This book is well worth a read and for more information please view my earlier blog by clicking HERE

“Tomorrow Is A Long Time” – Bob Dylan

If today was not a crooked highway,
If tonight was not a crooked trail,
If tomorrow wasn’t such a long time,
Then lonesome would mean nothing to you at all.
Yes, and only if my own true love was waitin’,
And if I could only hear her heart a-softly poundin’,
Yes and only if she was lyin’ by me,
Then I’d lie in my bed once again.

I can’t see my reflection in the water(s),
I can’t speak the sounds that show no pain,
I can’t hear the echo of my footsteps,
Or can’t remember the sound of my own name.
Yes, and only if my own true love was waitin’,
And if I could only hear her heart a-softly poundin’,
Yes and only if she was lyin’ by me,
Then I’d lie in my bed once again.

There’s beauty in the silver, singin’ river,
There’s beauty in the rainbow in the sky,
But no one and nothing else can touch the beauty
That I remember in my true love’s eyes.
Yes, and only if my own true love was waitin’,
And if I could only hear her heart a-softly poundin’,
Yes and only if she was lyin’ by me,
Then I’d lie in my bed once again.

To buy the music of Bob Dylan click HERE

March 7, 2011 Posted by | Blast from The Past, New News, Old Music, Video | , | Leave a comment

House Of The Rising Sun

Noelle Cristen

The House of the Rising Sun” is a folk song from the United States. Also called “House of the Rising Sun” or occasionally “Rising Sun Blues“, it tells of a life gone wrong in New Orleans. The most successful version was recorded by the English rock group The Animals in 1964, which was a number one hit in the United Kingdom, United States, Sweden and Canada.

There is a house in New Orleans
They call the Rising Sun
And it’s been the ruin of many a poor boy
And God I know I’m one

My mother was a tailor
She sewed my new bluejeans
My father was a gamblin’ man
Down in New Orleans

Now the only thing a gambler needs
Is a suitcase and trunk
And the only time he’s satisfied
Is when he’s on a drunk

—— organ solo ——

Oh mother tell your children
Not to do what I have done
Spend your lives in sin and misery
In the House of the Rising Sun

Well, I got one foot on the platform
The other foot on the train
I’m goin’ back to New Orleans
To wear that ball and chain

Well, there is a house in New Orleans
They call the Rising Sun
And it’s been the ruin of many a poor boy
And God I know I’m one

Recorded in just one take on 18 May 1964, it started with a famous electric guitar A minor chord arpeggio by Hilton Valentine.

The performance took off with Eric Burdon’s lead vocal, which has been variously described as “howling”, “soulful”, and “deep and gravelly as the north-east English coal town of Newcastle that spawned him.”

Finally, Alan Price’s pulsating organ part (played on a Vox Continental) completed the sound.

Burdon later said, “We were looking for a song that would grab people’s attention,” and they succeeded: “House of the Rising Sun” was a true trans-Atlantic hit, topping both the UK pop singles chart (in July 1964) and the U.S. pop singles chart (two months later in September 1964, when it became the first British Invasion number one unconnected with The Beatles); it was the group’s breakthrough hit in both countries and became their signature song.

Like many classic folk ballads, the authorship of “The House of the Rising Sun” is uncertain. Some musicologists say that it is based on the tradition of broadside ballads such as the “Unfortunate Rake” of the 18th century which were taken to America by early settlers.

Alan Price of the Animals has claimed that the song was originally a sixteenth-century English folk song about a Soho brothel, and that English emigrants took the song to America where it was adapted to its later New Orleans setting.

The oldest known existing recording is by versatile Appalachian artists Clarence Ashley and Gwen Foster and was made in 1933. Ashley said he had learned it from his grandfather, Enoch Ashley. Alger “Texas” Alexander’s “The Risin’ Sun,” recorded in 1928, is sometimes mentioned as the first recording, but is a completely different song.

The song might have been lost to obscurity had it not been collected by folklorist Alan Lomax, who, along with his father, was a curator of the Archive of American Folk Song for the Library of Congress. On an expedition with his wife to eastern Kentucky Lomax set up his recording equipment in Middlesborough, Kentucky in the house of a singer and activist called Tilman Cadle. On September 15, 1937 he recorded a performance by Georgia Turner, the 16 year-old daughter of a local miner. He called it “The Risin’ Sun Blues.” Lomax later recorded a different version sung by Bert Martin and a third sung by Daw Henson, both eastern Kentucky singers. In his 1941 songbook Our Singing Country, Lomax credits the lyrics to Turner, with reference to Martin’s version. According to his later writing, the melody bears similarities to a traditional English ballad, “Matty Groves”, recorded of course by Fairport Convention.

In late 1948 Lead Belly recorded a version called “In New Orleans” in the sessions that later became the album Lead Belly’s Last Sessions (1994, Smithsonian Folkways).

“In New Orleans” – Lead Belly

 Joan Baez recorded it in 1960 on her eponymous debut album.

In late 1961, Bob Dylan recorded the song for his first album, Bob Dylan, released in March 1962. Dylan claims a writer’s credit for the song.

In an interview on the documentary No Direction Home, Dave Van Ronk said that he was intending to record it at that time, and that Dylan copied his version. He recorded it himself soon thereafter in 1964 on Just Dave Van Ronk.

I had learned it sometime in the 1950s, from a recording by Hally Wood, the Texas singer and collector, who had got it from an Alan Lomax field recording by a Kentucky woman named Georgia Turner. I put a different spin on it by altering the chords and using a bass line that descended in half steps—a common enough progression in jazz, but unusual among folksingers. By the early 1960s, the song had become one of my signature pieces, and I could hardly get off the stage without doing it.
—Dave Van Ronk
In Suze Rotolo’s book that I am currently reading she is quoted as saying Dylan and Van Ronk had a big falling out over Dylan’s decision to record the song without discussiong it with Van Ronk, the book seems to be of the opinion that he (Van Ronk) never recorded it, evidently this is wrong.

Bob Dylan, Suze Rotolo, Dave Van Ronk

May 10, 2010 Posted by | Blast from The Past, Blues, Books, Folk, Old Music, Video | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan, ‘The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan’. sleeve was captured off Jones Street and West 4th Street in New York’s Greenwich Village, Dylan and his girlfriend Suze Rotolo pose a short distance from their apartment. Rotolo saw the sleeve as a “cultural marker” of “spontaneity and sensibility”, whatever the hell that means.

Anyway Suze Rotolo has done alright by it, her book as highlighted below is next up on my list of books I have lying around for reading.

The girl with the wistful eyes and hint of a smile whose head is resting on the suede-jacketed shoulder of a nice-looking young man as they trudge through the snow on the cover of 1963’s The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan met with his Bobness in 1961, when she was 17 and he was 20.

The story of their love affair is a microcosm of the early Sixties, when the gentle strains of folk music gave way to the electronic blare of rock and a few puffs of pot turned into a bad trip on LSD. For Rotolo, it was a trajectory that would take her from the sweetness of first love to the trauma of abortion.

Dylan maniacs will scour these pages for clues to his lyrics – and find plenty. But they’ll miss the point of this oddly organised (though not as random as it seems), delicately written, heart-tugging memoir of New York’s Greenwich Village when it nearly was a village, and seemed the most exciting place on earth in which to be young. Rotolo’s volume includes a map showing how closely packed into a few streets of the West Village the epicentre of the Sixties music scene was. One only needed to walk up Bleeker Street to get from Gerde’s Folk City – where in September 1961 Robert Shelton discovered Bob Dylan and wrote the career-launching review in the New York Times – to the White Horse, where Dylan Thomas drank himself to death less than seven years earlier, and we all hung out at its tables trying to catch the vibes (though it was a few months earlier, and in Chicago not New York, that the kid from the Midwest, his bid to perform rejected, slept on my floor for a few nights during a folk festival).

Rotolo, now an artist, captures this bohemian atmosphere with loving detail. Those who knew the scene will not be surprised to learn that it was she who taught small-town Bobby Allen Zimmerman about politics. She was the child of communists, whose affiliation had to be kept secret all through the Fifties and Sixties because of the overt persecution the family would have suffered during the McCarthy period.

Rotolo seems refreshingly free of the paranoia that afflicted many of our generation and virtually all her parents’ cohorts, which manifested itself in the habit of hiding copies of the Communist Manifesto and Little Lenin Library books from the eyes of neighbours in the Westchester suburbs. Dylan knew left-wing politics from the dust-bowl perspective of Woody Guthrie, whom he finally met as Guthrie lay dying in a New Jersey hospital in 1961. But it was from Rotolo that he learnt about the labour movement and the organised left, as well as about the civil rights and peace movements. In a way, Dylan’s Jewish background equipped him better for life in Greenwich Village than did Rotolo’s Italian heritage. Both her parents were Italian-born, but the culture (and personnel) of the left was strongly Jewish. There was a slightly frosty meeting of Rotolo and the Zimmerman parents for dinner after Dylan’s under-attended Town Hall concert in April 1963, and another in October for his Carnegie Hall appearance.

Following a temporary separation when Rotolo went to Perugia in 1962 to study, they were together until she decided to move out of the small flat they shared. Then, slowly, the romance fizzled out. Rotolo is generous about the break-up. Did Dylan leave her for Joan Baez? She says only that Dylan and Baez’s ‘professional appearances together were exciting and provoked gossip about an affair. At first it was just gossip – then, of course, it wasn’t.’ And she hasn’t quite kissed and told. As she says: ‘As Bob Dylan’s fame grew so far out of bounds, I felt I had secrets to keep.’ She still has a few.

Review byPaul Levy originally published in The Observer 21st September 2008, published here in edited form.

“A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” – Bob Dylan

Oh, where have you been, my blue-eyed son ?
And where have you been my darling young one ?
I’ve stumbled on the side of twelve misty mountains
I’ve walked and I’ve crawled on six crooked highways
I’ve stepped in the middle of seven sad forests
I’ve been out in front of a dozen dead oceans
I’ve been ten thousand miles in the mouth of a graveyard
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, and it’s a hard
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall.

Oh, what did you see, my blue eyed son ?
And what did you see, my darling young one ?
I saw a newborn baby with wild wolves all around it
I saw a highway of diamonds with nobody on it
I saw a black branch with blood that kept drippin’
I saw a room full of men with their hammers a-bleedin’
I saw a white ladder all covered with water
I saw ten thousand takers whose tongues were all broken
I saw guns and sharp swords in the hands of young children
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, and it’s a hard
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall.

And what did you hear, my blue-eyed son ?
And what did you hear, my darling young one ?
I heard the sound of a thunder, it roared out a warnin’
I heard the roar of a wave that could drown the whole world
I heard one hundred drummers whose hands were a-blazin’
I heard ten thousand whisperin’ and nobody listenin’
I heard one person starve, I heard many people laughin’
Heard the song of a poet who died in the gutter
Heard the sound of a clown who cried in the alley
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard
And it’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall.

Oh, who did you meet my blue-eyed son ?
Who did you meet, my darling young one ?
I met a young child beside a dead pony
I met a white man who walked a black dog
I met a young woman whose body was burning
I met a young girl, she gave me a rainbow
I met one man who was wounded in love
I met another man who was wounded in hatred
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard
And it’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall.

And what’ll you do now, my blue-eyed son ?
And what’ll you do now my darling young one ?
I’m a-goin’ back out ‘fore the rain starts a-fallin’
I’ll walk to the deepths of the deepest black forest
Where the people are a many and their hands are all empty
Where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters
Where the home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison
Where the executioner’s face is always well hidden
Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten
Where black is the color, where none is the number
And I’ll tell and think it and speak it and breathe it
And reflect it from the mountain so all souls can see it
Then I’ll stand on the ocean until I start sinkin’
But I’ll know my songs well before I start singin’
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, and it’s a hard
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall.

To buy the music of Bob Dylan click HERE

To buy the book by Suze Rotolo click HERE

April 22, 2010 Posted by | Books, Interesting Fact, Old Music, Video | , | Leave a comment


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