Sometime in late 1963 Bob Dylan jotted down the lyrics to “The Times They Are A-Changin'” on a long sheet of white paper. On the back he began penning “North Country Blues,” another song that begins with the lines “Come gather ’round…”
The document has been seen by very few people for the past 47 years, but on December 10 it’s going to be auctioned by Sotheby’s. They estimate it will go for between $200,000 and $300,000. “I’ll be perfectly frank — I think we could have pushed the estimate up a bit,” Sotheby’s Senior Vice President Selby Kiffer tells Rolling Stone. “No Dylan lyric has ever sold for this much, but no Dylan lyric of this stature has ever come up for auction.”
The handwritten lyric sheet comes from a cache of documents that Dylan historian Clinton Heylin refers to as “The MacKenzie-Krown Papers.” Eve and Mac MacKenzie were a New York couple that housed Dylan shortly after he came to New York in 1961, and Kevin Krown was a friend from the Midwest who served as Dylan’s first manager in that same time period. One way or another, Krown and the MacKenzie’s came into possession of what Heylin describes as “a couple of dozen early Dylan songs — some handwritten, some typed out with chords.” The lyrics to “The Times They Are-A Changin'” were sold by the MacKenzie’s son Peter about 10 years ago to a private collector.
Last June Sotheby’s sold John Lennon’s lyrics to “A Day In The Life” for $1.2 million, which led the private collector who owns the Dylan lyrics to contact the auction house. Indeed, Kiffer says he can’t imagine any Dylan lyric being more sought after by collectors. “‘Blowing In The Wind’ is almost more associated with some of the other groups that covered it,” he says. “‘Like A Rolling Stone’ is of huge significance, but that’s from Dylan’s period as a rocker.”
It’s still unlikely the lyrics will go for as much as “A Day In The Life.” “The Beatles stopped in 1969 after a relatively brief period,” Kiffer says. “Dylan has gone on and on — which is great — but he’s kind of made it difficult to keep up with him. You can get your arms around the entire output of The Beatles. Also, on a strictly popular front maybe they would have the edge over Dylan.”