Go to him now, he calls you,
you can't refuse
When you ain't got nothing,
you’ve got nothing to lose
You're invisible now,
you got no secrets to conceal
“Like a Rolling Stone” – Bob Dylan
We’ve all heard about the tragedies of Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix’s conversations, Lou Reed’s affairs, Mick Jagger’s antics; even we can talk about Paul McCartney’s favorite films. But what do we know about Bob Dylan?
The man is a mystery. After 1964, only three years into his career, he stopped giving explanations to the press and became a dark figure. His genius is impenetrable. He never allowed his music to fall under the shadow of his ideology or personal life. This is why our curiosity is piqued when we find out certain parts of his story we didn’t know about.
One such case is his relationship to model, actress, and socialite, Edie Sedgwick. This Andy Warhol muse had a chance encounter with Dylan at The Factory. This fact, which has been omitted from several books on the singer-songwriter, could bring context to some of his most famous songs.
The year was 1965; Dylan began to separate himself from protest songs. His folk image was disappearing to be taken over by a growing interest in art. What follows is part legend part history.
Bob met Edie at one of the New York art scene parties. It became a complicated connection from the start. Dylan was not that interested in the young model, but she fell head over heels from that moment.
Sedgwick was a rebellious rich girl with psychological issues caused by a difficult childhood. After two of her older brothers died, she decided to move to New York. It was there where she met Andy Warhol, as the artist was beginning to experiment with film. He was immediately captivated by her beauty and attitude, so he wanted to make her into a star.
This is where the speculation begins. There are no records of these encounters nor are there any photographs of the alleged couple. Dylan admitted to have met her at some point during 1965 but denied having any sort of relationship. The films Factory Girl and I’m Not There take a few witness accounts, hinting at what might have happened.
Dylan and Edie tried to keep their relationship a secret from the press. They met a few times, but in his eyes it was just a fun fling. Though he appreciated Edie’s intelligence, he knew she was a troubled woman pretending to be dumb to fit in society. This became more evident when Edie started to talk about Andy Warhol and the work they were doing. Dylan despised Warhol’s works and considered them of little artistic value. He tried to convince her that the artist would eventually tire of her when he didn’t need her anymore. Sedgwick ignored the warnings and insisted Dylan should visit Warhol’s Factory, at least once, so both men could meet and try to work together.
It was around this time when Warhol had begun to have had enough of Sedgwick, both on a professional level as well as on a personal one. According to accounts and biographical films, the artist felt she was getting too much attention she did not deserve. It wouldn’t be long before he got rid of her, as Dylan had predicted. Still Sedgwick unaware of all this took the singer-songwriter to the Factory. Bob had on his new blunt personality, and Warhol appeared nervous. The few images that exist on this encounter cannot be more obvious. An incredible force took over the art studio and Warhol was not ready to deal with it.
During his visit, Dylan looked around unimpressed by Warhol’s works. He made a few jokes about the Pop art pioneer and, though Edie attempted to improve the situation with humor, it was clear Dylan wanted to hurt Warhol. At one point Dylan pointed at a painting where Andy had captured Elvis Presley. Warhol gave it to the folk singer, unaware that in a few years he would exchange the piece for a sofa. The making of one of Warhol’s classic screen tests with Dylan happened when he agreed for the artist to film him for a few moments. The take is an iconic moment for both men.
After a few more sarcastic comments Dylan left the Factory. It’s rumored that from then on he stopped seeing the model or answering her calls. One of Edie’s brothers assures that she had an abortion she claimed was Dylan’s child. On his part, Warhol eliminated Edie from his circle entirely. He rejected her, and there are claims that he suggested she should run away with Dylan. A few months later, Edie felt in a deep depression after finding out the musician had gotten married in secret to model Sara Lownds. It wasn’t long before she began a relationship with Bob Neuwirth, a friend of Dylan’s, who introduced her to an array of drugs that marked the beginning of the poor little rich girl’s decadence.
After reading this story we can assume that more than a few of Dylan’s songs from 1965 and 1966 were written with Edie in mind. Some believe that at least a couple passages from “Like a Rolling Stone” are meant for her. Sedgwick died in disgrace after being betrayed and abandoned by men like the musician and the artist. That moment is now seen as a representative point in the sixties and just one of the legends that make Bob Dylan into one of the most mysterious characters in history.
To read more about the mystery that is Bob Dylan you can read his revolutionary poems or about the book that inspired him.
Translated by María Suárez