Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan in 1965. / Image: ky_olson/Flickr/CC BY

A recently discovered collection of original Bob Dylan lyrics from the mid-1960s will be put up for auction later this month. Christie’s auction house is expecting to fetch thousands for the iconic manuscripts. The auction is scheduled for June 23 in New York City.

A legendary song writer

Minnesota-born Bob Dylan, the tousel-headed, gravel-voiced singer-songwriter, emerged on the folk scene of New York’s Greenwich Village in the early 1960s. He has gone on to become one of the most influential voices in American pop music. His records have sold millions of copies and his iconic songs have been covered by some of the biggest names in music, from Sam Cooke to the Ramones.

Heavily annotated pages

Some of the manuscripts are typed, while others are hand-written. Many of them are heavily edited, including handwritten changes and notes.

Some of the lyric changes are even written in crayon. Alternate lyrics which pre-date the recorded versions appear on many of the drafts. Some feature groups of rhyming words, intended to inspire other unwritten lines of lyric. These notations give an insight into the methods Dylan used to create his legendary songs.

Iconic titles

The original drafts, according to Christie’s, were purportedly once the property of Dylan’s one-time manager, the late Albert Grossman. Some of the titles included in the auction will be “Subterranean Homesick Blues, “Queen Jane Approximately,” “Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream,” and “Visions of Johanna.”

Included in the auction are five early drafts of songs from the classic 1965 album “Bringing it all Back Home.” One, “I Ain’t Gonna Work on Maggie’s Farm No More,” is an earlier draft of the song recorded as “Maggie’s Farm.” It is expected to fetch from $70,000 to $90,000 alone.

A watershed period for Dylan

“The mid ’60s, especially 1964-1966, were a true watershed for Dylan,” said Chris Coover, a spokesperson for Christie’s. “In that period his lyrics became deeper and more personal, while his songs moved away from the acoustic, folk-inflected style, and he forged a unique personal style as poet and songwriter.”

Other lyrics have sold big

Last December Bob Dylan’s handwritten and smudged lyrics to the anthem “The Times They are A-Changin’” fetched $42,000 at Sotheby’s. John Lennon’s manuscript of the Beatles classic “A Day in the Life” fetched $1.2 million at auction a year ago.


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Bob Dylan, “Maggie’s Farm” from 1976 concert

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