A draft of one of the most popular songs of all time, Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone,” sold Tuesday for $2.045 million, which the auction house Sotheby’s called a world record for a popular music manuscript.
Written in pencil on four sheets of hotel stationery with revisions, notes and doodles — a hat, a bird, an animal with antlers — it is “the only known surviving draft of the final lyrics for this transformative rock anthem,” Sotheby’s said. The Minnesota-born bard was 24 when he recorded the song in 1965 about a debutante who becomes a social outcast. “How does it feel To be on your own” it says on the letterhead from the Roger Smith Hotel in Washington, D.C. “No direction home Like a complete unknown Like a rolling stone.”
Dylan’s scrawls show some experimenting with rhymes. “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.”
The buyer was unidentified, as was the seller, whom Sotheby’s described as a California fan “who met his hero in a non-rock context and bought directly from Dylan.”
Dylan, 73, was born in Duluth and grew up in Hibbing, Minn. He attended the University of Minnesota for less than a year — reportedly spending more time in the coffeehouses and after-hours jams of Dinkytown than he did in the classroom.
The previous record for a pop manuscript had been owned by another high-profile college dropout, John Lennon, whose handwritten lyrics for “A Day in the Life,” from the Beatles’ 1967 album “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” sold for $1.2 million in 2010.