As lyric sheets go, the original handwritten words to what is arguably Bob Dylan's greatest song are about as valuable as they get.

Now some of the musician's richer fans will have a chance to get their hands on his lines for Like A Rolling Stone as they go under the hammer next month at the inaugural rock'n' roll history sale at Sotheby's in New York, with an expected price of up to US$2 million ($2.3 million).

Richard Austin, head of books and manuscripts at the auction house, said: "This is the Holy Grail of rock lyrics. The release of Like A Rolling Stone irreversibly changed post-war music history."

The opening track to the album Highway 61 Revisited was released in 1965 and became Dylan's most commercially successful song. Although it reached only No 2 in the US charts, perhaps unsurprisingly it topped the 500 greatest songs of all time compiled by Rolling Stone magazine.


In an interview with Playboy in 1966, Dylan said that he had been close to quitting the music business but the song changed it all.

The four-page working manuscript - written on headed notepaper from the Roger Smith Hotel in Washington - has corrections, revisions and additions and comprises the essential final draft of the song that Sotheby's boasted "transformed Dylan from a folk singer to a rock icon".

The distinctive reprise "How does it feel" is clearly visible alongside lines not used in the final recording.

The owner bought the manuscript from Dylan in the past five years, according to the auction house. The most recent comparable manuscript to be sold was John Lennon's autographed lyrics for the Beatles hit A Day in the Life, which went for US$1.2 million in 2010.

Other highlights of the sale include Jimi Hendrix's infamous contract with PPX which engaged him to perform live and in the studio for US$1. The Sotheby's specialist said: "It was a contract that haunted him for the rest of his career."

- Independent