Bob Dylan ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ manuscript sells for over $2 million

Singer Bob Dylan performs during a segment on director Martin Scorsese, recipient of the Music + Film Award, at the 17th Annual Critics' Choice Movie Awards in Los Angeles January 12, 2012. Credit: Reuters
Singer Bob Dylan performs during a segment on director Martin Scorsese, recipient of the Music + Film Award, at the 17th Annual Critics’ Choice Movie Awards in Los Angeles January 12, 2012.
Credit: Reuters

Bob Dylan’s original, handwritten manuscript for “Like a Rolling Stone” sold for just over $2 million on Tuesday at Sotheby’s rock and roll auction, which also included memorabilia from the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Elvis Presley.

The price for the 1965 annotated lyrics for “Like a Rolling Stone,” considered one of the most influential songs in postwar music, makes it the most expensive rock music manuscript sold at auction.

It shattered the previous record set in 2010 when John Lennon’s handwritten lyrics for “A Day in the Life,” the final track from the 1967 album “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” sold for $1.2 million, according to Sotheby’s.

“It is always pleasing to set the world record. It carried a strong estimate (up to $2 million) as well, and we felt the estimate was justified given the importance of the work,” said Richard Austin, Sotheby’s head of books and manuscripts.

“I’m a Dylan fan myself,” he added, “and I thought it was one of the coolest things that I have ever handled.”

The auction house described “Like a Rolling Stone,” which was sold to an anonymous private buyer, as “one of rock’s most rousing classics, its thick, layered sound and innovative organ riff instantly recognizable.”

The manuscript for Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall,” which fetched $485,000, was the second highest selling lot, followed by the Vox guitar organ, a hybrid instrument given to the Beatles by the inventor in 1964, which sold for $305,000.

The sale, called A Rock & Roll History: Presley to Punk, was Sotheby’s first dedicated music history auction in more than a decade. The total was slightly more than $4 million, with nearly 67 percent of the 150 lots sold. The other items did not meet their reserve price.

Sotheby’s said there were strong prices for material linked to Presley, the Rolling Stones and Joni Mitchell, among others.

“We’re very pleased with the sale overall,” said Austin. “It’s an interesting market and we look forward to seeing where it goes.”

Other top items included Ronnie Wood’s Zemaitis 1977 acoustic guitar that sold for $75,000, Bruce Springsteen’s autographed manuscript lyrics for “Thunder Road,” which fetched $37,500 and Presley’s flamboyant peacock jumpsuit from his days performing in Las Vegas, which went to the highest bidder for $245,000.

A Grammy Award for “Jackson” presented to Johnny Cash and June Carter sold for $37,500 and Mitchell’s lyrics for “Woodstock,” went under the hammer for $37,500.

Items in the auction, which ranged in price from an estimated $200-$300 up $2 million for the Dylan lyrics, came from collectors and people who worked in the music industry.

Sotheby’s said it decided to hold the sale to test the market and to see what collectors are interested in buying. Earlier this month, original manuscripts and drawings by former Beatle John Lennon sold for $2.9 million, more than double the estimated price.



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