“Once upon a time you dressed so fine, you threw the bums a dime in your prime, didn’t you?”
They are among the most famous words in music history. And now Bob Dylan’s original handwritten lyrics to “Like a Rolling Stone”—scrawled on hotel stationary and filled with revisions and artistic doodles—are coming up for auction.
Sotheby’s is selling the lyrics as part of its sale Tuesday, titled “A Rock & Roll History: Presley to Punk.” The lyrics from the 1965 song, which the auction house’s Richard Austin said influenced everyone from The Beatles to Bono, are the top lot and could fetch between $1 million and $2 million.
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“They are the holy grail of lyrics,” Austin said. They also offer a window into Dylan’s painstaking song-writing process. Starting at 20 pages, he whittled the words down over time to four pages—which themselves are filled with alternate rhymes and lyrics.
“He was very methodical,” Austin said.
The sale is filled with other mementos of rock history. The peacock jumpsuit that Elvis Presley wore in his famous Las Vegas performances could fetch between $100,000 and $200,000. The suit has a green and blue peacock, which Elvis took as a sign of good luck, rendered in rhinestones and gold lame on the front and back. Since it’s hard to clean, you can even see Elvis’ small sweat stain under the arm (clearly added value).
An upright piano that was once housed at The Record Plant recording studio in New York could sell for between $100,000 and $200,000. While a bit worn, its honky-tonk sound was a favorite of John Lennon’s. It was also played by Elton John and David Bowie.
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Jimi Hendrix’s famous $1 contract, which gave performing rights to PPX Enterprises for only a dollar and cost the performer a fortune in his career, is also for sale. It could fetch between $100,000 and $200,000.
—By CNBC’s Robert Frank