Bob Dylan lyrics, letters sell for nearly half a million dollars

Nov 22, 2020, 9:37 PM
Sept. 29, 1978 file photo, Bob Dylan performs at New York's Madison Square Garden in New York. (AP)

(CNN) — A collection of Bob Dylan memorabilia including letters, unpublished lyrics and handwritten lyrics to “Blowin’ in the wind” have sold for nearly half a million dollars, auctioneers say.

The items belonged to the estate of Dylan’s friend and fellow musician Tony Glover, who died last year. They were put up for sale in a week-long auction run by RR Auction Company.

Glover’s collection of Dylan memorabilia included personal letters and the transcripts from an interview carried out by Glover and hand-annotated by Dylan.

RR Auction said Friday that the collection sold for a total of $495,000.

In one typed and signed letter — sent from the Bearsville, New York, country retreat of his manager Albert Grossman — Dylan refers to Beatles John Lennon and Ringo Starr as “groovy” after meeting them for the first time in 1964.

“… am writing green songs an tieing play words togeter…i am outside an somewhat free / long for nothing. john lennon groovy also ringo. holy household here something out of ficticious gandi novel,” Dylan writes. “i write by candlelight. hardly never during day / bob dylan he plays makes bread facing kind fond people menace in their bathtubs / they call him names an pay outrageously just t see what he looks like…bob dylan he laughs / it is all a joke see me in the sky. the sky is on fire…”

“The letter’s dogged pace and free-flowing lyrical style seem to mirror the very manner in which he was aggressively approaching the song-writing process, with the mashing of typewriter keys all but audible as one reads the page, sold for $36,187,” RR Auction Company said in a release.

The “Blowin’ in the wind” lyrics, dated 2011 and signed by Dylan, fetched the highest price, $108,253.75, RR Auction Company said.

Meanwhile, unpublished lyrics penned during a 1962 road trip with Glover and musician John Hammond Jr. — to see Woody Guthrie at the Brooklyn State Hospital — sold for $38,781.

“My eyes are cracked I think I been framed / I can’t seem to remember the sound of my name / What did he teach you I heard someone shout / Did he teach you to wheel & wind yourself out / Did he teach you to reveal, respect, and repent the blues / No Jack he taught me how to sleep in my shoes,” Dylan wrote.

RR Auction Company said the lyrics were about Dylan’s experiences with blues legend Big Joe Williams. It quoted Glover recalling the trip and Dylan’s writing in “No Direction Home” — a 2005 documentary:

“[Hammond] was driving, I was in the front seat, and Bob was in the back. And at some point he started scribbling out something on a piece of paper… It was like a little poem thing. We were talking about Big Joe Williams. Cause he’d met Big Joe in Chicago, and I played with Big Joe Williams [too]…And I thought [the lyrics] really summed up Big Joe Williams, you know, and Bob’s attitude towards it too.”

The transcript from the 1971 interview between Dylan and Glover also revealed that Dylan had written “Lay Lady Lay” for Barbra Streisand.

For decades, the song was thought to have been written for the 1969 film, “Midnight Cowboy.”

The transcripts were reportedly for an Esquire article that Glover had been writing, though the story was never published. In the conversation that took place on March 24, it’s clear that Dylan wrote the song for Streisand, but it was not necessarily about her.

“You said Father of Night was written for a play, and Lay Lady Lay was done for Midnight Cowboy,” Glover said.

“Actually it was written for Barbra Streisand,” Dylan replied.

After the transcript came to light, Streisand told NBC she had no knowledge that the song was written with her in mind.

RR Auction said Glover befriended Dylan in the Minneapolis coffee house scene. “He was one of the few hometown friends that Dylan stayed in touch with after going to NYC. Dylan dedicated his prose-poem contribution to the 1963 Newport Folk Festival program to Glover, calling him a ‘best friend in the highest form,'” RR Auction said in the release.

The auction house said its client was “thrilled” with the prices fetched.

“The more satisfying result is the tribute to Tony Glover and how the public realized his importance to the history of Rock and Roll,” Bobby Livingston, an executive with RR Auction Company, said in a statement.

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Bob Dylan lyrics, letters sell for nearly half a million dollars