Bob Dylan Like a Rolling Stone lyrics sell for $2M

Bob Dylan's handwritten lyrics for Like a Rolling Stone sell for just over $2 million US at Sotheby's rock and roll auction, smashing record as most expensive rock music sold at auction.

Singer-songwriter's handwritten manuscript sells at Sotheby's auction in NYC

Bob Dylan's handwritten lyrics sell for $2M at Sotheby's rock auction in New York. (David Vincent/Associated Press)

A draft of one of the most popular songs of all time, Bob Dylan's Like a Rolling Stone sold Tuesday for $2 million US, which the auction house called a world record for a popular music manuscript.

A working draft of the finished song in Dylan's own hand went to an unidentified bidder at Sotheby's. The selling price, $2.045 million (all figures in US), included a buyer's premium.

The manuscript is "the only known surviving draft of the final lyrics for this transformative rock anthem," Sotheby's said.

Lyrics sold are a working draft of Like a Rolling Stone, one of the most popular songs of all time. (Sotheby's/The Associated Press)

The draft is written in pencil on four sheets of hotel letterhead stationery with revisions, additions, notes and doodles: a hat, a bird, an animal with antlers. The stationery comes from the Roger Smith Hotel in Washington, D.C.

Dylan was 24 when he recorded the song in 1965 about a debutante who becomes a loner when she's cast from upper-class social circles.

"How does it feel To be on your own" it says in his handwriting. "No direction home Like a complete unknown Like a rolling stone."

Scrawls seem to reflect the artist's experimentation with rhymes.

The name "Al Capone" is scrawled in the margin, with a line leading to the lyrics "Like a complete unknown."

Another note says: "...dry vermouth, you'll tell the truth..."

Sotheby's described the seller as a longtime fan from California "who met his hero in a non-rock context and bought directly from Dylan." He was not identified.

The manuscript was offered as part of Sotheby's rock and pop music sale.

In 2010, John Lennon's handwritten lyrics for A Day in the Life, the final track on the Beatles' classic 1967 album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, sold for $1.2 million, the record for such a sale.

Other notable items sold include:

  • Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood's Zemaitis 1977 acoustic guitar for $75,000.

  • Bruce Springsteen's autographed manuscript lyrics for Thunder Road for $37,500.

  • Elvis Presley's peacock jumpsuit for $245,000.

With files from Reuters

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