Buy Bob Dylan’s Illustrated First Draft of the ‘Greatest Song of All Time’

Richard Avedon, Bob Dylan, Folk Singer, New York City (1963). Courtesy of Christie's Images, Ltd.

Bob Dylan’s handwritten first draft of “Like a Rolling Stone,” which in 2011 Rolling Stone magazine named greatest song of all time, will be up for auction at Sotheby’s next month, the BBC reports.

Not only is the musician’s lyrical genius evident in the four-page manuscript, but Dylan’s dabbling in the visual arts is apparent as well, with abstract doodles and little drawings of a rooster, a fedora, and a high-heeled shoe appearing in the margins. Premonitions, no doubt, of the less-than-stellar works he’s shown at Gagosian.

Bob Dylan's draft of "Like a Rolling Stone."

Bob Dylan’s draft of “Like a Rolling Stone.”
Courtesy Sotheby’s.

A turning point in Dylan’s career, “Like a Rolling Stone” launched the folk singer to rock-stardom and, at an inconceivable six-and-a-half minutes long, helped change the face of pop music. It never hit number one (The Beatles’ “Help” clung to the top spot at the time), but its impact is undeniable. Sotheby’s is calling the manuscript “the most significant piece of rock material to appear at auction.”

Written on stationary from Washington, DC’s Roger Smith Hotel in 1965, the handwritten lyrics show the songwriter’s compositional process through corrections, revisions, and additions. The rousing start to the chorus, “How does it feel” could have alternatively included the phrases “get down and kneel,” “raw deal,” and “shut up and deal.”

The manuscript belongs to a friend of the singer, who purchased it from Dylan three years ago, and comes with a letter of authentication. Sotheby’s is expecting to fetch as much as $2 million for the song—double the 2010 record set by John Lennon’s “A Day in the Life.” The seller is also offering Dylan’s draft of “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall” (1962), estimated at $400,000 to $600,000.


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