Edie Sedgwick’s Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat.

Originally Published: 4 August, 2012.

There are three muses which haunt Dylan’s masterpiece ‘Blonde on Blonde’: Joan Baez, Sara Lownds and Edie Sedgwick. Although there is little evidence to confirm Dylan had a romantic relationship with Edie Segwick, her iconic image and spirit reverberate throughout the album. The sheer coolness of Edie’s image echoes throughout the years with thunderous electricity. Edie possessed an irresistible combination of old world charm with undefinable coolness. Vogue Editor, Diana Vreeland described Edie as ‘one of the true personalities of the Sixties.’ [1]

Iconic shot of Edie Segwick.

Edie came from a family known for both its aristocratic roots and history of mental illness. Edie was
treated for mental illness and spent part of her youth in psychiatric hospitals, most notably at Silver Hill in New Canaan, Connecticut. Edie studied sculpture and art in Cambridge, quickly becoming the reigning It Girl of the student scene there.

Edie Sedgwick.

Edie moved to NYC. A Star was Born. Well, not just a Star, but a Superstar. Edie became Andy Warhol’s muse and the Queen of the NYC Underground Scene. The 2006 film, ‘Factory Girl’, starring Sienna Miller, is about Edie Sedgwick; it’s a stylish film but is inaccurate in that it portrays a Dylan-like character as having a big romance with Edie, which is not true.

Edie Sedgwick and Andy Warhol, Empire State Building.

Dylan songs where Edie comes through most strongly are ‘Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat’ and ‘Just Like A Woman’. The latter’s evocation of a fragile young woman brings Edie to mind. ‘With her fog, her amphetamine and her pearls’ seems a perfect description of Edie. The rollicking, ironic, humorous blues of ‘Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat’, satirising a style conscious young woman, screams Edie Sedgwick. Edie even had a signature Leopard-Skin coat she was often seen in.

Edie Sedgwick.

However despite Edie Sedgwick’s allure, ‘Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat’ owes more to Memphis Minnie, the legendary Blues pioneer. Dylan expert Michael Gray argues, ‘Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat’ is heavily influenced by Memphis Minnie’s ‘Me and my Chauffeur Blues’.[2] This is clearly evident in the version of the song on Dylan’s ‘Bootleg Series Vol. 7- No Direction Home: the Soundtrack’. This version of ‘Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat’ includes a verse which states, ‘Well you can ride with me, honey, I’ll be a chauffeur, Just as long as you stay in the car: if you get out and start to walk you just might topple over, In your brand-new leopard-skin pill-box hat.’ This brings us nicely back to Edie who travelled everywhere by limousine.

Memphis Minnie: Pioneering Blueswoman.

As one of the most iconic figures of the Sixties, it is fitting Edie echoes throughout one of the greatest albums of the age.See Edie and Andy Warhol being interviewed by Merv Griffin in 1965 here.

Edie Sedgwick.

[1] Jean Stein, Edie: American Girl, (New York: Grove Press, 1982), p. 301.
[2] Michael Gray, The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia (Great Britain: Continuum, 2006), p. 458.

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