October 28, 1939 |
Wilmington, Delaware, United States
|Occupation||Actress, fashion model|
Bob Dylan (m. November 1965 – June 1977)
|Children||Maria Dylan Himmelman
Sara Dylan (born October 28, 1939 as Shirley Marlin Noznisky), was the first wife of singer-songwriter Bob Dylan and mother of singer Jakob Dylan. She was married to Bob Dylan from November 1965 until June 1977.
Little is known about Sara Dylan's early life or family. She was born in Wilmington, Delaware, on October 28, 1939, to Jewish parents Bessie and Isaac Noznisky. Her maiden name was Shirley Noznisky (or, according to Beatty Zimmerman, Novoletsky). Her father Isaac, was a Belorussian Jewish immigrant who settled in Wilmington shortly before the First World War and ran a scrap metal business on Claymont street. He never learned to read or write English. Shirley's mother Bessie, ran a dry goods store at the junction of 8th and Lombard streets, the latter the street on which Shirley was born. She had one brother Julius, sixteen years her senior.
When Shirley was nine, Bessie had a stroke, and her great aunt Esther came to help watch over the family. In November 1956, when Shirley was completing high school, her father was shot dead by a man with a grudge. Shirley's widowed mother died five years later leaving her alone in the world.
She attended the University of Delaware briefly before moving to New York City, around 1960, where she worked as a bunny girl at the Playboy club. She became fashion model, represented by the Ford agency, and she met her first husband, photographer Hans Lownds. Hans was a German Jew, born in 1914 as Heinz Ludwig Lowenstein; he fled to America in the 1930s and changed his name to Henry Louis Lownds (Hans was nickname). He became a successful photographer of men's fashion, known for using beautiful young women in his pictures. Despite the fact Hans was twenty five years older than Shirley, she became his third wife in late 1960 or early 1961. 'My father was the one who changed Sara's name,' says Peter Lownds, who discovered he had a stepmom- only five years his senior- when he came home from Yale and Sara answered the door. 'My father said, "I can't be married to a woman named Shirley." (So) he changed her name to Sara.'
Sara and Hans lived in a large five-story house on 60th Street in Manhattan, between Second and Third Avenues. Sara continued with her modeling career- appearing in Harper's Bazaar as the 'lovely luscious Sara Lownds'- and then became pregnant. Her daughter Maria was born October 21, 1961. Within a year of the birth, the marriage began to fail. Sara started going out on her own, driving around town in an MG sports car Hans had given her, and gravitated to the youthful scene in Greenwich Village. According to Peter Lownds, this is where she met Bob. 'Bob was the reason (she left Hans),' says Lownds. 'He was famous and she was very beautiful.' . She was not familiar with his music, and only vaguely knew who he was. Sara introduced Dylan and his manager Albert Grossman to D.A. Pennebaker, the director who would later film Don't Look Back.
Hans and Sara separated and Sara went to work as a secretary for the film production division of Time-Life. Sara was in the neighborhood coffee shop when she struck up a friendship with waitress Sally Anne Buehler, who happened to be dating Albert Grossman. Sally invited Sara up to Bearsville and this became another link with Bob. When Sally and Albert Grossman married, on November 12, 1964, Bob and Sara were among the guests at their wedding.
Marriage to Bob Dylan
Aronowitz claims that shortly after meeting her, Dylan told her he planned to marry her. Lownds and Dylan became romantically involved sometime in late 1964; soon afterwards, Lownds and Dylan both moved into separate rooms in New York's Hotel Chelsea to be near one another.
In July 1965 Bob purchased a mansion in the Arts and Crafts movement colony of Bearsville for himself and Sara, who was expecting his first child. Bob and Sara decided on a sprawling eleven-room Arts and Cratfs mansion named Hi Ho La on Camelot Road. The property was purchased in July- a bargain at under $12,000- in the name of a 'blind' company so that Bob's name would not appear on the transaction. Yet he would be unable to spend much time at the house in the foreseeable future, due to being out on the road for most 1965 and 1966. He would only see Sara only when he returned home to Byrdcliffe for breaks and when she occasionally joined him on the road.
The pair wed in a secret ceremony on November 22, 1965, during a break in his tour. The marriage took place under an oak tree outside a judge's office on Mineola, Long Island. The only other participants were Albert Grossman and a maid of honor for Sara. Their marriage remained a secret even to some of Dylan's closest friends until months afterwards, when the press caught wind of their union. Dylan reportedly "depended on her advice as if she were his astrologer, his oracle, his seer, his psychic guide. He would rely on her to tell him the best hour and the best day to travel."
The marriage first became strained about April 1974 when Dylan began taking art classes from Norman Raeben, a 73-year-old Russian immigrant and former boxer who, according to Dylan, had been close friends with Soutine, Picasso, and Modigliani. Raeban's teaching methods radically changed the musician's way of thinking, and he would later tell an interviewer, "I went home after that first day and my wife never did understand me ever since that day. That's when our marriage started breaking up. She never knew what I was talking about, what I was thinking about, and I couldn't possibly explain it."
The couple's bitter divorce was finalized on June 29, 1977. Tensions remained between the two for several years afterwards, but they eventually made up; in 1983, they even considered remarriage. A photo taken by Sara of Bob in Jerusalem on the occasion of their son's bar mitzvah around 1982 would later become the record cover for his album Infidels.
As subject of songs
Sara Dylan has inspired several of Dylan's songs, at least two directly. The first was "Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands" (from Blonde on Blonde), and the second "Sara" (from 1976's Desire), in which he called her "radiant jewel, mystical wife". This song was an attempt to reconcile with Sara after their estrangement around 1975:
- I can still hear the sound of the Methodist bells
- I had taken the cure and had just gotten through
- staying up for days in the Chelsea Hotel
- writing "Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands" for you
Dylan's 1975 album Blood on the Tracks is widely viewed as the most potent of Sara's inspirations, as many fans assume the songs refer to her. The album was recorded soon after the couple's initial separation. Dylan biographer Clinton Heylin has argued that Sara's influence on the lyrical content of the album is often exaggerated. Dylan himself denied at the time of the album's release that Blood on the Tracks was autobiographical. However, the couple's son Jakob says: "The songs are my parents talking". Heylin also reported that about 1977 Dylan wrote an entire album worth of songs at least partially inspired by their final separation, but only played the tracks privately for select friends, and to date has neither recorded nor performed them live.
In addition to Blonde on Blonde, Blood on the Tracks, and Desire, some critics also believe Sara inspired songs on Bringing It All Back Home, Nashville Skyline, New Morning, Planet Waves, and Street-Legal. Songs believed to be inspired by Sara Dylan include "Isis", "We Better Talk This Over", "If You See Her, Say Hello", "Idiot Wind", "You're a Big Girl Now", "Abandoned Love", "Down Along the Cove", "Wedding Song", "On a Night Like This", "Something There Is About You", "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight", "To Be Alone With You", "If Not for You", "Desolation Row", "Where Are You Tonight? (Journey Through Dark Heat)" and "Love Minus Zero/No Limit".
In pop culture
A fictionalized account of their marriage is featured in the Bob Dylan biopic I'm Not There, with Heath Ledger based on Dylan and Charlotte Gainsbourg based on a combination of Sara Dylan and Suze Rotolo.
- Howard Sounes. Down The Highway, The Life Of Bob Dylan. Doubleday 2001. ISBN 0-552-99929-6
- Clinton Heylin. Bob Dylan Behind The Shades- A Biography. Penguin Books Ltd. ISBN 0-14-028146-0
- Behind the Shades Revisited by Clinton Heylin, pp. 167
- Sounes, p. 162; p. 467
- Like A Rolling Stone: Bob Dylan fan page - "Sara"
- Sounes, p. 200
- A Simple Twist of Fate: Bob Dylan and the Making of Blood on the Tracks by Andy Gill & Kevin Odegard, p. 5
- A Simple Twist of Fate: Bob Dylan and the Making of Blood on the Tracks by Andy Gill & Kevin Odegard, p. 3
- Sounes, p232
- Sounes, Down The Highway: The Life Of Bob Dylan, p. 193.
- A Simple Twist of Fate: Bob Dylan and the Making of Blood on the Tracks by Andy Gill & Kevin Odegard, p. 8
- A Simple Twist of Fate: Bob Dylan and the Making of Blood on the Tracks by Andy Gill & Kevin Odegard, p. 37
- A Simple Twist of Fate: Bob Dylan and the Making of Blood on the Tracks by Andy Gill & Kevin Odegard, p. 39
- Behind the Shades Revisited by Clinton Heylin, pp. 710
- Sounes, Howard. Down the Highway: the Life of Bob Dylan (Doubleday 2001; ISBN 0-552-99929-6) p333.
- Gill, Andy. Don't Think Twice, It's All Right. Thunder's Mouth Press, 1998. ISBN 1-56025-185-9