One of the most popular songs of all time, Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone," is going to auction this summer.
Sotheby's is offering a working draft of the finished song in Dylan's own hand for an estimated $1 million to $2 million.The song is about a debutante who becomes a loner when she's cast from upper-class social circles.
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.
"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 New York Times also writes:
Both manuscripts offer a great deal of information about Mr. Dylan’s writing process, or at least, about ideas that ran through his mind as he worked on those songs. “Hard Rain,” from 1962, is on pages ripped from a spiral notebook, and is in virtually finished form. But marginal notes are plentiful. They include a quotation from the biblical book of Jeremiah (“Before I formed you in the womb, I knew and approved of you”), the notation “diamond desert” to the right of the second verse, and what appear to be unrelated notes referring to titles of books and records.
Probably most telling, if also uncharacteristically obvious, given that most listeners regard the song as a vision of a post-nuclear landscape, are the names Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The “Like a Rolling Stone” manuscript, written on stationery from the Roger Smith Hotel in Washington, has similar marginal notes, including record titles (“Midnight Special,” for example) that could relate to his composing process, or might simply be contemporaneous notes he made on an available scrap of paper. But because this four-page version is from earlier in the process than the “Hard Rain” manuscript, it also shows the song as very much a work in progress.
The full refrain as we know it – “How does it feel / to be on your own / no direction home / like a complete unknown / like a rolling stone” – does not turn up until the fourth page. Even there, rejected lines are interspersed. A rejected third line was, “like a dog without a bone,” which gives way to “now you’re unknown” and then “forever” replacing “you’re.”
Earlier, he had considered working the name Al Capone into the rhyme scheme, and he was stuck for a while on whether to build a rhyme on “how does it feel,” penciling in “it feels real,” “does it feel real,” “shut up and deal,” “get down and kneel” and “raw deal.”“If you look at these four pages,” Richard Austin, Sotheby’s manuscript expert, said in a telephone interview, “you can see that at this stage there are rhyme schemes that he didn’t pursue, and I suppose the chorus is the biggest surprise. Here you have a chorus that is such an iconic piece of history, but it clearly didn’t arrive fully formed. And you wonder, if he chose another rhyme, would it have had the same impact?”
Read more here.
Sotheby's expects that the auction may break the record, now held by John Lennon's A Day in the Life manuscript.
Here is the original recording of Like a Rolling Stone:
Here is a performance of Hard Rain: