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Dylan's Women

As Radio 2's Bob Dylan season continues, Bob Harris takes a look at the women behind the songs and discovers how they influenced Dylan as an artist and songwriter.

Focusing largely on the music, tracks include Boots of Spanish Leather, which was written for Suze Rotolo; Like a Rolling Stone, which is said to be inspired by the model and socialite Edie Sedgwick; and Sara, Dylan's homage to his first wife Sara Lownds.

Folk singer Carolyn Hester remembers how Dylan was signed to Columbia after John Hammond saw him playing harmonica at one of her recording sessions. Bob was mesmerised by her singing: "You should have seen this little rough and scuffle little guy, with all this curly hair in the world, pulled his chair right up in front of me... he says, 'you wanna play that again?'"

Suze Rotolo met Dylan in the summer of 1961 and went on to inspire some of his most famous songs. Richard Williams, a journalist from the Guardian, explains how she also introduced him to theatre and artists he'd never heard of: "It wouldn't be exaggerating to say she opened up a new world to him." Richard also remembers the importance of the album cover for The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan which pictured Bob and Suze walking down a snowy Manhattan street.

Singer Joan Baez features, who describes how she opened him up to a wider audience: "I adored his music and I adored him... I would present him during my concert so certain credit is offered to me because of that." Billy Name, the archivist at Andy Warhol's Factory, explains the link between Dylan and Edie Sedgwick, who is said to have inspired the song Like a Rolling Stone. And photographer Elliott Landy remembers the time he spent with Bob and his first wife Sara Dylan at their home in Woodstock: "she had a calming effect and she bought him into a wonderful domestic family life".

Other contributors include film-maker DA Pennebaker; actress Sienna Miller; photographer and film director Jerry Schatzberg; Dylan's backing singer Ronee Blakley; and Dylan's first manager, Terri Thal, who remembers how hard it was to get Dylan booked for shows.

Who are the women behind some of Dylan's most revered songs? And how have they impacted on his music? We'll find out as we explore another side of Bob through the eyes of "Dylan's Women".

Release date:

1 hour

Last on

Mon 23 May 2011 22:00