A draft of one of the most popular songs of all time, Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone,” sold Tuesday for $2 million, 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, 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.
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.