Dylan and Rotolo met in the summer of 1961 in New York City at an all day folk music festival held at a local church. In his memoir Chronicles, Part One, the singer-songwriter wrote of their first encounter: "Right from the start I couldn't take my eyes off her. She was the most erotic thing I'd ever seen. She was fair skinned and golden haired, full-blood Italian ... We started talking and my heart started to spin ... She was just my type."
Rotolo was credited with exposing him to the work of Paul Cézanne and Wassily Kandinsky, Bertolt Brecht and Antonin Artaud, Paul Verlaine and Arthur Rimbaud. Together they went to see Picasso's Guernica and François Truffaut's Shoot the Pianist. After she told him the story of a 14-year-old African American boy who had been brutally murdered in Mississippi in 1955, he wrote "The Ballad of Emmett Till," one of his early broadsides against injustice.
Many Dylanologists claim Rotolo inspired some of his finest early songs, including "Boots of Spanish Leather," "One Too Many Mornings," "Tomorrow Is a Long Time" and "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right."
As Dylan's star rose dramatically in 1964, the couple broke up, amid reports of his romantic liaison with Joan Baez. The demise of the relationship is supposedly the subject of Dylan's "Ballad In Plain D."
Rotolo shunned interviews for years, but broke her silence for Martin Scorsese's 2005 documentary No Direction Home. She then wrote a memoir of the early years, A Freewheelin' Time, published to warm reviews in 2008.
In addition to her son, Suze Rotolo is survived byEnzo Bartoliocci, her husband of 40 years.