Vast Unknown Archive of Bob Dylan Material Emerges

Sells for up to $20M, will be made available to music scholars
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 2, 2016 7:03 AM CST
Vast Private Archive of Bob Dylan Material Emerges
Bob Dylan performs in Los Angeles in 2012.   (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello, File)

Big news for Bob Dylan fans: A massive "secret" archive of his work—old notebooks with lyrics, letters, photos, tape reels, recordings, etc—has been sold for about $20 million and will eventually be made available to music scholars and less formal "Dylanologists," reports the New York Times. The newspaper got an advance look at the 6,000 pieces of material, acquired by the George Kaiser Family Foundation and the University of Tulsa. It will be cataloged over the next two years, then housed at the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa and perhaps in a new Dylan gallery in the same city. One highlight of the collection: two previously unknown notebooks devoted to his iconic Blood on the Tracks album, showing how Dylan labored over the lyrics. For example, "Tangled Up in Blue" once had the refrain, "Wish I could lose, these dusty sweatbox blues."

The collection is "going to start anew the way people study Dylan,” says Princeton historian Sean Wilentz, author of Bob Dylan in America. An example of how deep it goes: The song "Dignity" goes through 40 pages of changes and still doesn't make the cut for his 1989 album Oh Mercy. But while the collection holds the promise of providing "untold insight" into Dylan the artist, it doesn't reveal as much about Dylan the human, writes Ben Sisario of the Times. For example, it includes a 1978 thank-you card from Barbra Streisand for some flowers he sent, but there's nothing to indicate he responded to her lighthearted suggestion that they team up on a record. Click for the full story, which includes images of some of the material. (Read more Bob Dylan stories.)

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