It was 57 years ago today (July 20th, 1965) that Bob Dylan released “Like A Rolling Stone.” The song not only revolutionized the way pop lyrics were written and sung, but ultimately pushed the boundaries as to how long a hit single could actually be. “Like A Rolling Stone,” which clocked in at 6:06, had the time listed as 5:59 on the label of the vinyl 45, in an effort to fool Top 40 disc jockeys into playing it. In August 1965 “Like A Rolling Stone” — which was the lead track on his Highway 61 Revisited album — peaked at Number Two in the charts, Dylan’s highest charting single to date.
In 1988, when Bruce Springsteen inducted Dylan into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, he spoke about the impact “Like A Rolling Stone” had on him and his generation: “The first time I heard Bob Dylan, I was in the car with my mother listening to WMCA, and on came that snare shot that sounded like somebody’d kicked open the door to your mind. . . When I was 15 and I heard ‘Like A Rolling Stone,’ I heard a guy who had the guts to take on the whole world and who made me feel like I had to too. Maybe some people misunderstood that voice as saying that somehow Bob was going to do the job for them, but as we grow older, we learn that there isn’t anybody out there who can do that job for anybody else.“
Bob Dylan’s work has been analyzed for over half-a-century. He’s been labeled many things by fans and the press — a poet, a prophet, and a musical genius — one thing he adamantly says he’s not, is a “storyteller”: “I wouldn’t really call them stories. Stories are things, which have a beginning middle and an end. My things are more like short attention span things that happen to a group or crowd of people that goes down very quickly, so, no — I wouldn’t even notice it.”
George Harrison — a friend, collaborator, and devoted Dylan acolyte — always believed that the primarily acoustic-based Dylan finally going electric was no more than a natural musical progression: “It was controversial. For me, it was just like, it just seemed interesting it was. . . Y’know, it seemed kinda natural, really, y’know, because there’s a limit to, y’know, what you can do with acoustics. Or, y’know, I mean, there’s. . . it didn’t seem that Bob should particularly be limited to just doing that.”
In 2004 Rolling Stone magazine voted “Like A Rolling Stone” Number One in its list of “The 500 Greatest Songs.”
Throughout the years, the song has been covered by the Rolling Stones, John Mellencamp, the Rascals, the Turtles, David Bowie, and Judy Collins, among others.
Dylan himself has performed the song at most of his shows since 1965, often saving it for one of his encores.
The song, which originally appeared as the lead-off track on his 1965 album Highway 61 Revisited, has appeared in various live versions on albums such as 1970’s Self Portrait, 1974’s Before The Flood, and 1978’s Bob Dylan At Budokan.
In May 2019, a handwritten lyric sheet for Bob Dylan‘s 1965 song “Like A Rolling Stone” from 2010 was sold at auction for $70,400. According to the press release announcing the sale via Julien’s Auctions, the lyrics appear on “A stationery sheet from The Dorchester, London, with handwritten lyrics in black pen by Bob Dylan. Dylan has titled the song and signed at the bottom ‘Bob Dylan 2010.’
The four verses of the song are handwritten together with the four choruses. (The lyric sheet is) accompanied by a typed, signed letter from Jeff Rosen, president of Bob Dylan Music Company, certifying that the manuscript was one of the four handwritten and signed by Dylan.”
In 2014, an early draft of “Like A Rolling Stone,” featuring unused lyrics, sold at auction for a whopping $2.045 million.