Bob Dylan’s “Like A Rolling Stone” Lyrics Bring $2 Million at Auction

The handwritten lyrics to Bob Dylan's
The handwritten lyrics to Bob Dylan's "Like A Rolling Stone". Photo via Sotheby's

The handwritten lyrics to painter and singer-songwriter Bob Dylan’s legendary rock anthem “Like a Rolling Stone” were sold to an undisclosed bidder for $2.045 million on Tuesday afternoon at Sotheby’s. According to—appropriately—Rolling Stone, the sale marks the world record for a popular music manuscript.  As previously reported by artnet News, the lyrics are scrawled in pencil on four sheets of stationary from the Roger Smith Hotel in Washington, DC.

The only known surviving draft of the song features some of Dylan’s stray notes and doodles in the margins (a hat, a bird, and an antlered animal), as well as a few lyrics that never made the final cut, like “…dry vermouth/You’ll tell the truth” and a line about Al Capone. Additionally, the manuscript shows Dylan’s attempts to rhyme “How does it feel” with various phrases, like “it feels real,” “does it feel real,” “get down and kneel,” “raw deal,” and “shut up and deal.”

Dylan was 24 in 1965 when he recorded the song that controversially shifted his status from folk singer to full-blown rock star. The lyrics describe the fall of a once wealthy socialite that many speculate is Edie Sedgwick. There has also long been speculation that the line “You used to ride on the chrome horse with your diplomat,” is a reference to Andy Warhol.

The sale, “History of Rock and Roll from Presley to Punk,” also included two pages of handwritten lyrics for Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall,” which went for $485,000. According to the AFP, a John Lennon guitar was also sold for $305,000, and a peacock jumpsuit worn by Elvis Presley for $245,000. Strangely, a piano played by John Lennon when he was recording the album Imagine that was valued between $100,000 and $200,000, did not meet its reserve and was therefore not sold.


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