Sotheby’s to Auction Bob Dylan’s Original Working Manuscript for “Like a Rolling Stone”

May 21st, 2014

On June 24, Sotheby’s New York will stage Presley to Punk: A Rock & Roll History, a sale of rock and pop music material that will showcase important manuscripts and objects as pieces of 20th-century cultural history.

The auction will be led by Bob Dylan’s original hand-written lyrics for the 1965 epic “Like a Rolling Stone,” one of the most significant popular music manuscripts ever to appear at auction and the song that transformed Dylan from a folk singer to a rock icon. It is estimated to fetch $1 to 2 million.

Since ushering in a new musical era in the 1960s, “Like a Rolling Stone” has proved overwhelmingly popular, topping Rolling Stone‘s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. In this near-complete, four-page working draft, the distinctive, often-repeated “how does it feel” lyric is clearly visible alongside unused lines, stray thoughts on American cultural imagery and interesting doodles.

Further Dylan lyrics to be offered include the original working manuscript comprising the final lyrics for “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” (est. $400/600,000) while the sale will also include significant pieces relating to the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix and Joni Mitchell.

Richard Austin, the expert in charge of the Presley to Punk sale, says: “This is the holy grail of rock lyrics. The release of ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ irreversibly changed postwar music history. With one song, Bob Dylan elevated rock music from mere ‘pop’ to the medium though which youth culture expressed itself. The lyrics set down on these four small sheets of paper are a near complete rendering of the song that resonated like no other, influencing the course of pop music for the next 50 years.”

Although “Like a Rolling Stone” was kept off the top of the Billboard chart by the Beatles’ “Help,” the reach of the song can be seen in the bands and artists it influenced, from Jimi Hendrix to David Bowie to Bob Marley & the Wailers to Green Day, all of whom have famously released covers of the song. In 2005 Martin Scorsese chose a line from the song as the title for his documentary about Dylan, No Direction Home, and Dylan finally released an official video in 2013. A handwritten version of the songs chorus is in the Dylan collection of the Morgan Library and Museum in New York.

For more information about the auction, visit sothebys.com.

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