NEW YORK – Handwritten song lyrics by legendary American singer Bob Dylan sold for $2 million at auction in New York on Tuesday, the highlight in a sale of rock memorabilia linked to some of the brightest stars of the 20th century.
The copy of Dylan’s original lyrics for the 1965 epic “Like A Rolling Stone,” which transformed him from a folk musician into a rock icon, had been valued at $1-2 million by Sotheby’s before the auction.
Named by Rolling Stone Magazine the greatest of 500 all-time greatest songs, Sotheby’s went so far as to say the lyrics transformed the course of pop music in the 20th century.
“The Holy Grail of rock lyrics has taken its rightful place as the most expensive popular music manuscript sold at auction,” said Richard Austin, head of Tuesday’s sale at Sotheby’s.
“I am thrilled to see so many collectors recognizing these lyrics’ importance as a work of 20th century cultural history.”
Austin said “Like A Rolling Stone” was the first six-minute single ever released, allowing people to go beyond short format, and it marked one of the first cases of viral marketing.
Executives opposed its release because of its length, but an employee took it to a nightclub where it played all night, leading DJs to clamor for Columbia records to put it out.
Dylan’s final lyrics for protest anthem “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” sold for $485,000. A John Lennon guitar went for $305,000, and a peacock jumpsuit worn by Elvis Presley sold for $245,000.
But a piano first played by John Lennon when he was recording the album “Imagine” and valued at $100,000 to $200,000 did not meet its reserve price and did not sell.
Austin said the auction celebrated various rock performers who have gripped the world for the past 60 years.
The memorabilia was compiled from private collectors over the years as well as people who worked for the recording industry.