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Monday, March 28, 2011

Dylan Pays Respects To Girl From The North Country

It may be my first memory of an album (image right), played when I was a child at my aunt and uncle's house in the mid-60s.

I always thought the woman on the cover was the "north country girl" of the song with that title.

She's died, and Dylan recently paid a visit to a Synagogue presumably to say a prayer for her, via The Daily Mail (h/t Five Feet of Fury):

Bob Dylan has been spotted on a mission of mercy – visiting a local synagogue.

The 69-year-old music legend had presumably gone to say prayers for his lost ‘soulmate’ and ex-girlfriend Suze Rotolo, who died at the end of last month.

An ashen-faced Dylan cut a frail figure

He was greeted at the Los Angeles synagogue by a young woman before going inside carrying a black leather jacket underneath his arm as the sun shone.

An onlooker said: ‘He looked pretty beaten down and depressed. He went in a back door and stayed inside for over an hour before being picked up again by his driver.’

It is not known how often Dylan visits the synagogue and until now his chosen religion has been a long-standing mystery.

However he may well have just been saying a prayer for Miss Rotolo - his inspiration and young sweetheart who appeared with him arm in arm on the iconic cover of his 1963 album The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan.

The pair began dating in 1961 when Miss Rotolo was just 17 years old. They split after three years but remained close friends until she died of lung cancer in New York on February 25.
I have no idea if she were the girl of the song, but I'll always remember the image and the song:

Update: Reader Michael writes:
"I, too, am a big fan of Dylan's "Girl From The North Country." But, FYI, the song is probably about (or at least inspired by) a former girlfriend of Dylan's named Echo Helstrom. Suze Rotolo was, according to Dylan himself, a "full-blooded Italian," not of 'north country' provenance.

Sorry if this is a let-down!"
Hey, no problem. I love it when people destroy bits and pieces of my childhood memories.

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  1. "Faded the flower and all its budded charms...."

  2. Pete Townshend did a great version of the song on his "All The Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes" disc. Then again, that whole disc is amazing.

  3. I inherited that album from my older brother, but was much too young to appreciate it until several years later.

    Thanks for the memories.

  4. Sorry to be the grammar cop, but I believe you misapplied the subjunctive mood "were" in the last sentence of your original post. There is nothing aspirational or contingent about her being in the song. Either she was the girl referenced in the song or she was not. Pure fact. It would be grammatically correct to say "She always wished she were the girl referenced in the song."

    The best mental check on the subjective mood is to think of Fiddler on the Roof: If I were a rich man . . .

    Dylan remains a genius.

  5. @Blythe_masters - I looked at that and thought I had the subjunctive right. Not sure it is as limited as you say, since I was expressing doubt.

  6. Here's a pretty good guide to the subjunctive mood.


    I'm not trying to be a jerk. I know you write carefully and care about good writing--that's why I flagged it for you. Call it returning the favor of some of my law school professors and early partners, sans the red pen. :)

    You really need to add an anonymous comment option, btw. It's a pain in the butt signing in to Google just to leave a comment on your blog.

    I enjoy your blog, professor. Thank you for your coverage of the WI controversies. The behavior of the judge is beyond outrageous.

  7. This is my favorite version - a duet with Johhny Cash.