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Dylan’s ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ manuscript expected to fetch up to $2 million

DULUTH — How much would you pay for an original draft of the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence?

Well, an original four-page manuscript of Bob Dylan’s song “Like a Rolling Stone,” considered to be one of the greatest rock songs ever and what one Dylan expert described as the rock ’n’ roll equivalent of those founding documents, is expected to fetch $1 million to $2 million when it goes up for auction in June, Sotheby’s said Thursday.

If it garners the expected price in the “Presley to Punk” auction, it will be one of the highest amounts ever paid for such an item. Although some have expressed skepticism that it will break the million-dollar mark.

“Historically it’s an incredibly unbelievable song,” said John Bushey, who hosts the Highway 61 Revisited show on KUMD. “It’s one of his best pieces of work, and he’s had a lot of them.”

“It’s like the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence for rock and roll,” added Aaron Brown, a member of the Dylan Days Committee.

Dylan's 1965 anthem addressed to “Miss Lonely” plaintively asks, “How does it feel, to be on your own, with no direction home?” It’s widely regarded as a breakthrough for Dylan and the music industry.

It not only established the former folk singer as a rocker but also, running more than six minutes, was almost double the length of pop songs that got radio air time in that era.

“It’s the song that broke the three-minute song barrier,” Bushey said of the tune, which served as a touchstone for the ’60s generation. “The original manuscript was like 20 pages long, and Dylan edited it down.”

Richard Austin, the expert in charge of the sale, commented: “This is the Holy Grail of rock lyrics. The release of ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ irreversibly changed postwar music history with one song. Bob Dylan elevated rock music from mere ‘pop’ to the medium through which youth culture expressed itself.”

“In this near complete four-page working draft the distinctive often repeated ‘how does it feel’ lyric is clearly visible alongside unused lines, stray thoughts on American cultural imagery, and interesting doodles,” Sotheby's said in a news release. “The lyrics set down on these four small sheets of paper are a near complete rendering of the song.”

In 2004, “Like a Rolling Stone” topped Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

Brown, who lives in Hibbing, said the song came at a “turning point” in Dylan’s career.

“It was shortly after he started playing electric,” Brown said. “It’s by many considered to be the first intellectual hit rock song.

“It made intellectual lyrics acceptable in rock music,” he said, noting an era ripe with protest songs about issues like war, civil rights and social justice.

“The idea that it would sell for a historic amount of money is not surprising,” Brown said.

“If people became Dylan fans it was a good chance it was around that time, and a good chance it was because of that song,” said Brown, who is 34. “I’m a lot younger than that generation, but that song was an entry point for me too. It was on the oldies station, but it held up quite well.”

Reuters news agency contributed to this report.

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