Bob Dylan's original lyrics to 'Like A Rolling Stone' set to sell at auction for £1.1m

Arts Correspondent

Bob Dylan fans will have a chance to get their hands on musical history, with the handwritten lyrics of "Like A Rolling Stone" set to become the “most important rock manuscript” yet to go under the hammer.

The words to what is one of his most famous songs are estimated to fetch up to $2 million (£1.18 million) at the inaugural rock and roll history sale at Sotheby’s in New York this summer.

The auction will also feature objects related to The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Elvis Presley and The Rolling Stones.

Richard Austin, head of books and manuscripts at Sotheby’s New York, said: “This is the Holy Grail of rock lyrics. The release of 'Like A Rolling Stone' irreversibly changed postwar music history.”

'Like A Rolling Stone', which was taken from the album Highway 61 Revisited, was released in 1965 and became Dylan’s most commercially successful song, reaching number two in the US charts.

The four-page working manuscript has corrections, revisions and additions and comprises the essential final draft of the song that Sotheby’s said, “transformed Dylan from a folk singer to a rock icon”. It was written on headed notepaper from the Roger Smith Hotel in Washington.

The distinctive “how does it feel” lyric is clearly visible alongside lines that were not used in the final recording. The notepaper also has doodles and musings on American cultural imagery, including a reference to “Midnight Special, Mavis” a reference to the singer Mavis Staples.

“What that has to do 'Like A Rolling Stone' I don’t know, but he’s always referencing another song or previous artist in a lot of his notes,” Mr Austin said. 

The owner bought the manuscript from Dylan in the past five years, according to the auction house.

The most recent comparable manuscript to be sold was John Lennon’s autographed lyrics for The Beatles' hit "A Day in the Life", which went for $1.2 million (£710,000) in 2010.

'Like A Rolling Stone', perhaps unsurprisingly, topped the 500 greatest songs of all time compiled by Rolling Stone Magazine

“This is the song that took him really into being electric. At the time he was such a beloved figure in the folk music, and when he switched to rock and roll there was huge controversy,” Mr Austin said.

In an interview with Playboy in 1966, Dylan said that he had been close to quitting the music business but the song “changed it all”.

Other highlights of the sale include Jimi Hendrix’s infamous contract with PPX, which engaged him to perform live and in the studio for $1. The Sotheby’s specialist said: “It was a contract that legally and psychologically haunted him for the rest of his career.”

There is also a 1957 poster of an Elvis Presley show on sale, which is estimated to be worth up to $35,000 (£21,000), and an early poster from The Rolling Stones' career worth about $3,000 (£1,775).

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