Any Human Heart

Iconic is A Six-Letter Word

As some of you may be aware I am a Bob Dylan fan, and as such I would be remiss if I did not mention the passing of Suze Rotolo, Dylan’s former girlfriend in the early ‘60s who appeared with him on the cover of his second album.

The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan was  my second Dylan album. I was in Junior High, I think. I remember laying on my bed listening to this album, staring at that cover, wishing I was older and could go wherever I wanted to, do anything I wanted to – to be free, like Bob Dylan and his girlfriend. Only somewhere warmer than New York City.

You can read Suze Rotolo’s obituary here in the LA Times, and if you do please click on the link where it reads “later had a career as an artist” (or here).She was more than just a former girlfriend, or a Warhol-like icon.

Suze Rotolo passed away on February 24th, from cancer. She was 67.

I once loved a girl, her skin it was bronze
With the innocence of a lamb, she was gentle like a fawn
I courted her proudly but now she is gone
Gone as the season she’s taken

Bob Dylan, “Ballad in Plain D”

Another iconic photo

Jane Russell died Monday. She was 89. When I worked at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in the 1980’s I used to see her all the time. Particularly in the bar. I hate to say it but I always thought she was drunk. Later I learned that she suffered from macular degeneration, which probably accounts for the way her mouth and jaw seemed a bit loose or off-kilter. A little lesson in judging things by appearance.

For the last three weeks I have been watching  Any Human Heart on PBS, based on the 2002 novel (subtitled: “The Intimate Journals of Logan Mountstuart”) by William Boyd. Apparently some reviewers found it trite, but I enjoyed it. The series is about a novelist looking back over his life, spanning his time in Paris in the 1920s to New York in the ‘50s and ’80s London. During his life journey, he meets a number of notable people, including Ernest Hemingway, Ian Fleming and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor – the exiled British king and his mistress Wallis Simpson.

Throughout the series, scenes are interspersed of Mountstuart as an old man, preparing to die, and with that perspective, the revue of his adventures took on a rather sad quality for me. Yet, it’s a mostly upbeat and even humorous program.

Three Mountstuarts

Mountstuart inherited his philosophy of life from his father, who maintained that everything was just a matter of luck. Sometimes you have good luck and sometimes bad. And sometimes, I think that sums it up nicely.

At one point, Mountstuart tells the audience that “every human being is a collection of selves, that change all the time.” It seems to me that is important to remember as we try to nail down this “self'” so that we can destroy it. We are many selves. Each time we display a different aspect of ourselves, it is in a way like taking on another persona. Yet, none of them are truly us. We can be found within the change. Our various personalities come and go, our body gets sick and withers away, and the only constant is change. So somewhere in the midst of these cycles of change, we find our self. We can find it, probably it’s lurking in the coming and going of thoughts.

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2 thoughts on “Any Human Heart

  1. Farewell, Suze Rotolo. Sigh. I remember when that album first came out, too. I was already a Dylan fanatic after his first eponymous album. And I remember wondering who the beautiful girl on the cover was and hearing her name from my cool Greenwich Village friends. Those were the days, my friend! There’s quite a distance traveled from the Dylan of Greenwich Village to the Dylan of the 2011 Grammys. Alas, annica! But at least he looks like he’s still having fun.

    1. Perhaps you remember when Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits was released and Columbia Records built a marketing campaign around the slogan: Nobody sings Dylan better than Dylan. I always thought that was very true. Ironically, now, everyone sings Dylan better than Dylan. Still, you got to hand it to him for continuing to go out there and be “a voice without restraint” regardless of how weathered that voice sounds.

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