A Bob Dylan moment in history sold for almost $1 million at Christie’s on Friday; the exact total was $965,000. The historic moment happened July 25, 1965, at the Newport Folk Festival, when, for the very first time, Dylan played a set of music on an electric guitar. That tiny, three-song set made waves among the folk music faithful, and did not go over well with the purists who would have preferred he stick with the acoustic.
Dylan was booed by some as he left the stage, but he did give a glimpse of the old Bob Dylan in an acoustic encore. That day, however, was marked forever as Dylan’s transition from folk musician to rock-and-roll artist. The symbol of the moment was his Fender Stratocaster, with the characteristic sunburst finish and the original black leather strap, complete with the hard-shelled case. That symbol sold for almost a million dollars.
In addition to the guitar, some sheets of music that were found inside the case were sold as a separate lot. They contained lyrics to four Bob Dylan songs, some typewritten and some done by hand, in a pre-release state. One of the songs even had a title that was different in the draft version than in the version that was originally released, giving a glimpse into the creative process of the legendary artist.
While not valued anywhere near as much as the guitar, these sheets represent the heart of who Dylan was as an artist. It is not the sheets themselves, necessarily, but the ability to peek into the mind that created them. Bob Dylan had the most intellectually involved approach to creating an art that was completely visceral. To this day, there are debates in colleges and universities around the country trying to fathom the depths of literacy put down into a couple minutes of music. In those circles, those sheets would be considered priceless.
The Famous guitar came into the market in a roundabout way. Originally, there was some question as to the authenticity of the instrument. The story was that Dylan had left the guitar on a private plane he had been travelling on, and the pilot took possession of it. The pilot was named Vic Quinto, and after receiving no response from Dylan’s representatives when he asked what should be done with the guitar, he held on to it. After he passed away, his daughter brought the Stratocaster to experts from a PBS television show called “History Detectives” in an attempt to authenticate it as having belonged to Dylan.
Even though there was some question about whether or not it was the actual Sunburst Fender, it was proven to be genuine. In the moment when Dylan confirmed that it was true, the guitar became worth the almost $1 million it sold for, surpassing that of Eric Clapton’s famous Fender that he called “Blackie,” which sold for $959,500. It is also the most that anyone has ever been paid for a guitar, and it is only appropriate that this emblem of a pivotal moment in Bob Dylan history have its moment at the top.
By Jim Malone