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Mr. Tambourine Man


Mr. Tambourine Man

"Mr. Tambourine Man"
Song by Bob Dylan from the album Bringing It All Back Home
Released March 22, 1965 (album)
Recorded January 15, 1965, Columbia Recording Studios, New York City
Genre Folk
Length 5:29
Label Columbia
Writer Bob Dylan
Producer Tom Wilson
Bringing It All Back Home track listing
Music sample
"Mr. Tambourine Man"
1965 Dutch picture sleeve.
Single by The Byrds
from the album Mr. Tambourine Man
B-side "I Knew I'd Want You"
Released April 12, 1965
Format 7" single[a 1]
Recorded January 20, 1965, Columbia Studios, Hollywood, CA
Genre Folk rock
Length 2:18
Label Columbia
Writer(s) Bob Dylan
Producer(s) Terry Melcher
The Byrds singles chronology
"Mr. Tambourine Man"
"All I Really Want to Do"
Mr. Tambourine Man track listing
"Mr. Tambourine Man"
"I'll Feel a Whole Lot Better"
Music sample

"Mr. Tambourine Man" is a song written, composed, and performed by Bob Dylan, who released his original version of it on his 1965 album Bringing It All Back Home. The Byrds also recorded a version of the song that they released in the same year as their first single on Columbia Records, reaching number 1 on both the Billboard Hot 100 chart and the UK Singles Chart, as well as being the title track of their first album, Mr. Tambourine Man. The Byrds' recording of the song was influential in initiating the musical subgenre of folk rock, leading many contemporary bands to mimic its fusion of jangly guitars and intellectual lyrics in the wake of the single's success.

This song has been covered by many artists, including Judy Collins, Odetta, Melanie, and William Shatner. The song's popularity led to Dylan recording it live many times, and it has been included in multiple Dylan and Byrds compilation albums. It has been translated into other languages, and has been used or referenced in television shows, films and books.

The song has a bright, expansive melody and has become famous in particular for its surrealistic imagery, influenced by artists as diverse as French poet Arthur Rimbaud and Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini. The lyrics call on the title character to play a song and the narrator will follow. Interpretations of the lyrics have included a paean to drugs such as LSD, a call to the singer's muse, a reflection of the audience's demands on the singer, and religious interpretations. Dylan sings the song in four verses, of which The Byrds used only the second for their recording. Dylan's and The Byrds' versions have appeared on various lists ranking the greatest songs of all time, including an appearance by both on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 best songs ever. Both versions also received Grammy Hall of Fame Awards.


  • Bob Dylan's version 1
    • Composition and recording 1.1
    • Interpretations 1.2
    • Other releases 1.3
  • The Byrds' version 2
    • Release and the birth of folk rock 2.1
    • Conception 2.2
    • Production 2.3
    • Reception 2.4
  • Other covers and references 3
  • Legacy 4
  • Notes 5
  • Footnotes 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8

Bob Dylan's version

Composition and recording

"Mr. Tambourine Man" was written and composed in early 1964, at the same approximate time as "Chimes of Freedom," which Dylan recorded later that spring for his album Another Side of Bob Dylan.[1][2] Dylan began writing and composing "Mr. Tambourine Man" in February 1964, after attending Mardi Gras in New Orleans during a cross-country road trip with several friends, and completed it sometime between the middle of March and late April of that year after he had returned to New York.[1] Nigel Williamson has suggested in The Rough Guide to Bob Dylan that the influence of Mardi Gras can be heard in the swirling and fanciful imagery of the song's lyrics.[3] Journalist Al Aronowitz has claimed that Dylan completed the song at his home, but folk singer Judy Collins, who later covered the song, has stated that Dylan completed the song at her home.[1] Dylan premiered the song the following month at a May 17 concert at London's Royal Festival Hall.[1]

Dylan first recorded "Mr. Tambourine Man" a few weeks later, on June 9, with Tom Wilson producing, during the Another Side of Bob Dylan session.[1][4] The take, recorded with Ramblin' Jack Elliott, was cut from the album because Dylan felt the song was special and their performance did not do it justice.[1] Sometime that month he also recorded a publisher demo of the song at Witmark Music.[5] More than six months passed before Dylan re-recorded the song, again with Wilson in the producer's chair, during the final Bringing It All Back Home session on January 15, 1965, the same day that "Gates of Eden," "It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)," and "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" were recorded.[1][6] It was long thought that the four songs were each recorded in one long take.[7] However, in the biography Bob Dylan: Behind the Shades, Clinton Heylin relates that the song required six attempts, possibly because of difficulties in working out the playoffs between Dylan's acoustic guitar and Bruce Langhorne's electric lead.[1] The final take was selected for the album, which was released on March 22, 1965.[1][7]

In his book Keys to the Rain: The Definitive Bob Dylan Encyclopedia, Oliver Trager describes "Mr. Tambourine Man" as having a bright, expansive melody,[8] with Langhorne's electric guitar accompaniment, which provides a countermelody to the vocals, being the only instrumentation besides Dylan's acoustic guitar and harmonica.[9] Author Wilfred Mellers has noted that although the song is in the key of D major, it is harmonized as if it were in a Lydian G major, giving the song a tonal ambiguity that enhances the dreamy quality of the melody.[10] Unusually, rather than beginning with the first verse, the song begins with an iteration of the chorus:[8]

Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me,
I'm not sleepy and there is no place I'm going to.
Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me,
In the jingle-jangle morning I'll come following you.[11]


William Ruhlmann, writing for the Allmusic website, has suggested the following interpretation of the song's lyrics: "The time seems to be early morning following a night when the narrator has not slept. Still unable to sleep, though amazed by his weariness, he is available and open to Mr. Tambourine Man's song, and says he will follow him. In the course of four verses studded with internal rhymes, he expounds on this situation, his meaning often heavily embroidered with imagery, though the desire to be freed by the tambourine man's song remains clear."[12]

There has been speculation that the song is about drugs such as LSD or marijuana, particularly with lines such as "take me on a trip upon your magic swirling ship" and "the smoke rings of my mind."[1][2][9] Dylan has always denied the song is about drugs,[13] and though he was using marijuana at the time the song was written, he was not introduced to LSD until a few months later.[1][2][14] Other commentators have interpreted the song as a call to the singer's spirit or muse, or the singer's search for transcendence.[2][14][15][16][17] In particular, biographer John Hinchey has suggested in his book Like a Complete Unknown that the singer is praying to his muse for inspiration; Hinchey notes that ironically the song itself is evidence the muse has already provided the sought-after inspiration.[15] Mr. Tambourine Man has also been interpreted as a symbol for Jesus Christ and for the Pied Piper of Hamelin.[12] The song may also reference gospel music, with Mr. Tambourine Man being the bringer of religious salvation.[17]

Dylan has cited the influence of Federico Fellini's movie La strada on the song,[8][18] while other commentators have found echoes of the poetry of Arthur Rimbaud.[1][19][20] Author Howard Sounes has identified the lyrics "in the jingle jangle morning I'll come following you" as having been taken from a Lord Buckley recording.[18] Bruce Langhorne, who performs guitar on the track, has been cited by Dylan as the inspiration for the tambourine man image in the song.[8] Langhorne used to play a giant, four-inch-deep "tambourine" (actually a Turkish frame drum), and had brought the instrument to a previous Dylan recording session.[1][9][21][22]

Other releases

Bob Dylan has often played "Mr. Tambourine Man" in live concerts.

The Bringing it All Back Home version of "Mr. Tambourine Man" was included on Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits in 1967 and several later Dylan compilation albums, including Biograph, Masterpieces, and The Essential Bob Dylan.[12][23] The two June 1964 recordings, one with Ramblin' Jack Elliott and the other at Witmark Music, have been released on The Bootleg Series Vol. 7: No Direction Home and The Bootleg Series Vol. 9: The Witmark Demos 1962–1964, respectively.[12][24]

The song has been in Dylan's live concert repertoire ever since it was written,[8] usually as a solo acoustic song, and live performances have appeared on various concert albums and DVDs. An early performance, recorded during a songs workshop at the Newport Folk Festival on July 24, 1964 is included in both Murray Lerner's film The Other Side of the Mirror[25] and the DVD release of Martin Scorsese's documentary No Direction Home.[26] A live performance at New York's Philharmonic Hall dating from October 31, 1964, appeared on The Bootleg Series Vol. 6: Bob Dylan Live 1964, Concert at Philharmonic Hall.[12] During his appearance at the Newport Folk Festival on July 25, 1965, after he was heckled by acoustic folk music fans during his electric set, Dylan returned to play acoustic versions of "Mr. Tambourine Man" and "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue";[27][28] this performance of "Mr. Tambourine Man" is also included in The Other Side of the Mirror.[25]

A live version from Dylan's famous May 17, 1966, concert in Ravi Shankar. That performance is included on The Concert For Bangladesh album, although it was excluded from the film of the concert.[30] Another live version, from the Rolling Thunder Revue tour of 1975, is on The Bootleg Series Vol. 5: Bob Dylan Live 1975, The Rolling Thunder Revue, while an electric band version from 1978 is on Bob Dylan at Budokan.[31][32]

The Byrds' version

Release and the birth of folk rock

The Byrds performing "Mr. Tambourine Man" on The Ed Sullivan Show, December 12, 1965.

"Mr. Tambourine Man" was the debut single by the American band The Byrds and was released on April 12, 1965 by Columbia Records.[33] The song was also the title track of the band's debut album, Mr. Tambourine Man, which was released on June 21, 1965.[34] The single, along with the album of the same name, was influential in originating the musical style known as folk rock, with the single becoming the first folk rock smash hit.[35][36] Indeed, the term "folk rock" was first coined by the U.S music press to describe the band's sound at around the same time as "Mr. Tambourine Man" peaked at number 1 on the Billboard chart.[37][38]

The single initiated the folk rock boom of 1965 and 1966, with many acts imitating the band's hybrid of a rock beat, jangly guitar playing and poetic or socially conscious lyrics.[12][39] This hybrid had its antecedents in the

Preceded by
"I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)" by The Four Tops
Billboard Hot 100 number-one single
(The Byrds version)

June 26, 1965 (one week)
Succeeded by
"(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" by The Rolling Stones
Preceded by
"I'm Alive"
by The Hollies
UK number one single
(The Byrds version)

July 22, 1965 (two weeks)
Succeeded by
"Help!" by The Beatles
  • Lyrics

External links

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  • Einarson, John (2005), Mr. Tambourine Man: The Life and Legacy of the Byrds' Gene Clark, Backbeat Books,  
  • Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Bob Dylan at Budokan". Allmusic. Retrieved July 16, 2009. 
  • Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits". Allmusic. Retrieved July 16, 2009. 
  • Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Bootleg Series, Vol. 5: Bob Dylan Live 1975 – The Rolling Thunder Revue". Allmusic. Retrieved July 16, 2009. 
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  • Fricke, David (1996). Mr. Tambourine Man (CD booklet). The Byrds. New York: Columbia Records. 
  • Fricke, David (2001). The Preflyte Sessions (CD booklet). The Byrds. New York: Columbia Records. 
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  • McGuinn, Roger. "Byrds FAQ List: What songs did the Byrds make popular?". Retrieved August 21, 2010. 
  • Mellers, Wilfrid (1984), A Darker Shade of Pale, Oxford University Press,  
  • "Mojo: 100 Greatest Dylan Songs". Rock List Music. Retrieved May 9, 2010. 
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  • "Mr. Tambourine Man". ByrdWatcher: A Field Guide to The Byrds of Los Angeles. Retrieved July 19, 2009. 
  • "Mr. Tambourine Man: The Byrds". Allmusic. Retrieved July 17, 2009. 
  • "Musicians Associated With The Byrds: The New Christy Minstrels". ByrdWatcher: A Field Guide to the Byrds of Los Angeles. Retrieved October 25, 2009. 
  • "NME’s 100 Greatest Singles of All Time". Rock List Music. Retrieved July 17, 2009. 
  • "The Original NPR 300".  
  • "Pasarea Colibri – In cautarea cuibului pierdut". (in Romanian). Retrieved July 19, 2009. 
  • Plangenhoef, Scott (September 9, 2009). "The Beatles: Rubber Soul". Retrieved June 27, 2010. 
  • Rogan, Johnny (1996). Mr. Tambourine Man (CD booklet). The Byrds. New York: Columbia Records. 
  • Rogan, Johnny (1998), The Byrds: Timeless Flight Revisited (2nd ed.), Rogan House,  
  • Rogovoy, Seth (2009), Bob Dylan: Prophet, Mystic, Poet, Scribner,  
  • "The Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Songs of All Time". Rock List Music. Retrieved May 8, 2010. 
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  • Ruhlmann, William. "Mr. Tambourine Man: Bob Dylan". Allmusic. Retrieved July 16, 2009. 
  • Russel, Richard E. "Roger McGuinn: Founder of The Byrds". Retrieved October 25, 2009. 
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  • Simpson, Richard and Linda Roberts (April 8, 2008). "Stella McCartney and Yoko Ono's tearful embrace at funeral of 'Fifth Beatle' - but Macca stays away".  
  • Singh, Anita (April 8, 2008). "Yoko Ono and Stella McCartney attend 'fifth Beatle' Neil Aspinall's funeral".  
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  • Thompson, Hunter S. (1998), Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (Second ed.), Vintage,  
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  • "Uncut: Top 40 Dylan Tracks". Rock List Music. Retrieved July 16, 2009. 
  • Unterberger, Richie. "The Bootleg Series, Vol. 4: The "Royal Albert Hall" Concert". Allmusic. Retrieved July 16, 2009. 
  • Unterberger, Richie. "Bruce Langhorne (1)". Retrieved July 13, 2009. 
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  • Unterberger, Richie. "Fairport Convention". Allmusic. Retrieved October 13, 2010. 
  • Unterberger, Richie. "Folk Rock: An Overview". Retrieved November 3, 2009. 
  • Unterberger, Richie. "Love". Allmusic. Retrieved November 3, 2009. 
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  • Unterberger, Richie (2002), Turn! Turn! Turn!: The '60s Folk-Rock Revolution, Backbeat Books,  
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  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Heylin 2009, pp. 181–186
  2. ^ a b c d Williamson 2006, pp. 223–224
  3. ^ Williamson 2006, p. 268
  4. ^ Heylin 1995, p. 29
  5. ^ Heylin 1995, pp. 20, 29
  6. ^ Heylin 2002, pp. 104–106
  7. ^ a b Varesi 2002, pp. 51–53
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i Trager 2004, pp. 438–441
  9. ^ a b c Gill 1998, pp. 74–75
  10. ^ Mellers 1984, pp. 136–138
  11. ^ Dylan 2006, pp. 152–153
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Ruhlmann
  13. ^ Gilliland 1969, show 32, track 2.
  14. ^ a b Rogovoy 2009, pp. 81–82
  15. ^ a b Hinchey 2002, pp. 94–99
  16. ^ Williams 1990, pp. 128–133
  17. ^ a b Shelton 1997, pp. 274–275
  18. ^ a b Sounes 2001, p. 182
  19. ^ Tamarin, Jean, "Bringing It All Back Home", in Dettmar 2009, p. 135
  20. ^ Heylin 2002, p. 151
  21. ^ Unterberger (1)
  22. ^ Unterberger (2)
  23. ^ Erlewine (1)
  24. ^ The Witmark Demos
  25. ^ a b Deming (1)
  26. ^ Sutton
  27. ^ Williams 1990, pp. 156–163
  28. ^ Santelli 2005, pp. 49–50
  29. ^ Unterberger (3)
  30. ^ Ginell
  31. ^ Erlewine (2)
  32. ^ Erlewine (3)
  33. ^ Eder 1990
  34. ^ Rogan 1998, p. 545
  35. ^ Rogan 1996
  36. ^ a b c d Unterberger (4)
  37. ^ Rogan 1998, pp. 81–83
  38. ^ Unterberger 2002, p. 133
  39. ^ a b Folk-Rock
  40. ^ 1962-66: American Folk-Rock vs. The British Invasion
  41. ^ Unterberger 2002, pp. 93–96
  42. ^ Unterberger 2002, p. 88
  43. ^ Wadhams 2001, p. 194
  44. ^ Eder
  45. ^ a b Unterberger (5)
  46. ^ a b Hjort 2008, p. 11
  47. ^ a b c d Hjort 2008, pp. 14–21
  48. ^ Russel
  49. ^ Musicians Associated With The Byrds: The New Christy Minstrels
  50. ^ David Crosby
  51. ^ Rogan 1998, pp. 31, 35–36
  52. ^ a b Gilliland 1969, show 33, track 2.
  53. ^ a b c d e f g h i Rogan 1998, pp. 49–63
  54. ^ a b c d Creswell 2006, p. 59
  55. ^ Fricke 2001
  56. ^ a b c Rogan 1998, pp. 54–56
  57. ^ Rogan 1998, p. 52
  58. ^ McGuinn
  59. ^ Hjort 2008, p. 24
  60. ^ Mr. Tambourine Man
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  64. ^ Dillon, Mark (January 1, 2012). Fifty Sides of the Beach Boys: The Songs That Tell Their Story. ECW Press. pp. 83–.  
  65. ^ The Byrds: Billboard Singles
  66. ^ Warwick 2004, p. 6
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  68. ^ Unterberger (6)
  69. ^ Einarson 2005, p. 62
  70. ^ Unterberger (7)
  71. ^ Plangenhoef 2009
  72. ^ MacDonald 1995, p. 135
  73. ^ Unterberger (8)
  74. ^ Smith 2009, p. 32
  75. ^ Rogan 1998, p. 417
  76. ^ Deming (2)
  77. ^ Thomas Erlewine
  78. ^ a b Mr. Tambourine Man: The Byrds
  79. ^ Rogan 1998, pp. 548–549
  80. ^ Adams, Cecil (April 21, 1978). "Must you get permission to record someone else's song?".  
  81. ^ a b c Song Search Results for: Mr. Tambourine Man
  82. ^ Adams, Gregory (September 7, 2012). "Flowers Of Hell Reveal Odes Details".  
  83. ^ Mungan
  84. ^ Pasarea Colibri
  85. ^ Zé Ramalho: Disco
  86. ^ Zé Geraldo: Discografia–Oficial
  87. ^ Wolfe 1969, p. 171
  88. ^ King 1974
  89. ^ Maslin 1995
  90. ^ Gleiberman 1995
  91. ^ McCarthy 1995
  92. ^ Hunter S. Thompson Funeral
  93. ^ Thompson, p. (Dedication page)
  94. ^ Singh 2008
  95. ^ Simpson 2008
  96. ^ Tuckman, Andrew (July 28, 2013). """John Craigie Has A New Album Out "The Apocalypse Is Over. 
  97. ^ Mr. Tambourine Man: Seven Poems of Bob Dylan at
  98. ^ a b The Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Songs of All Time
  99. ^ Grammy Hall of Fame Award
  100. ^ Rolling Stone: The 100 Best Singles of the Last 25 Years
  101. ^ Marsh 1999, p. 145
  102. ^ The Original NPR 300
  103. ^ Larkin
  104. ^ Mojo: The 100 Greatest Singles of All Time
  105. ^ NME’s 100 Greatest Singles of All Time
  106. ^ Sounds All Time Top 100 Albums & Singles
  107. ^ Mojo: 100 Greatest Dylan Songs
  108. ^ Uncut: Top 40 Dylan Tracks


  1. ^ The Byrds' recording of "Mr. Tambourine Man" was originally released as a 45 rpm 7" gramophone record, which was the dominant format for single releases during the 1960s (Shuker 2007, p. 56).


In a 2005 reader's poll reported in Mojo, Dylan's version of "Mr. Tambourine Man" was listed as the number 4 all-time greatest Bob Dylan song, and a similar poll of artists ranked the song number 14.[107] In 2002, Uncut listed it as the number 15 all-time Dylan song.[108]

In 1989 Rolling Stone ranked The Byrds' version of "Mr. Tambourine Man" as the number 86 single of the prior 25 years.[100] That same year, music critic Dave Marsh listed it as number 207 in his list of the top 1001 singles ever made.[101] In 1999, National Public Radio in the United States listed this version as one of the 300 most important American records of the 20th century.[102] In the UK, music critic Colin Larkin listed The Byrds' version as the number 1 single of all time.[103] Other UK publishers that have listed this song as one of the top songs or singles include Mojo, New Musical Express, and Sounds.[104][105][106] Australian music critic Toby Creswell included the song in his book 1001 Songs: The Great Songs of All Time and the Artists, Stories and Secrets Behind Them.[54]

The Byrds' version of "Mr. Tambourine Man" was listed as the number 79 song on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, and Dylan's version was ranked number 106.[98] It is one of three songs to place twice, along with "Walk This Way" by both Aerosmith and Run-DMC with Perry and Tyler, and "Blue Suede Shoes" by both Carl Perkins and Elvis Presley.[98] The Byrds' version was honored with a Grammy Hall of Fame Award in 1998, and Dylan's version was honored with the same award in 2002.[99]


"Mr. Tambourine Man" is one of seven Dylan songs whose lyrics were reset for soprano and piano (or orchestra) by John Corigliano for his song cycle Mr. Tambourine Man: Seven Poems of Bob Dylan.[97]

The 2013 John Craigie song, "I Wrote Mr. Tambourine Man", is about a person that Craigie met in New Orleans who claimed to have written the original lyrics to "Mr. Tambourine Man".[96]

"Mr. Tambourine Man" has also been referenced in books and film, including Tom Wolfe's nonfiction novel The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test,[87] Stephen King's book Carrie,[88] the film Dangerous Minds,[89][90][91] and the documentary film Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson. The subject of the latter film, journalist Hunter S. Thompson, had "Mr. Tambourine Man" played at his funeral and dedicated his novel Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas to Dylan because of the song.[92][93] The song was also performed by Pete Townshend at the funeral of Neil Aspinall, The Beatles' road manager and personal assistant.[94][95]

The song has been translated and recorded in a number of languages. Müslüm Gürses has covered the song with different lyrics written in Turkish. The Turkish version of the song was called Hayat Berbat.[83] It was translated into Romanian by Florian Pittiş, and sung by Pasărea Colibri on their 1995 album În căutarea cuibului pierdut.[84] There are also at least two Brazilian Portuguese versions of the song, covered by Zé Ramalho and Zé Geraldo on their Zé Ramalho canta Bob Dylan and Catadô de Bromélias albums respectively.[85][86]

A reunited line-up of The Byrds, featuring Roger McGuinn, Chris Hillman, and David Crosby, performed "Mr. Tambourine Man" with Dylan at a Roy Orbison tribute concert on February 24, 1990. This live performance of the song was included on the 1990 box set, The Byrds.[56] At the October 1992 Bob Dylan 30th anniversary tribute concert at Madison Square Garden, McGuinn performed the song, backed by Tom Petty, Mike Campbell, and Benmont Tench, among others.[8][81][82]

The song was covered by the fictitious group, The Termites, in an episode of the 1960's TV comedy, F Troop. Major cast members pose as "hippie" musicians in a send-up of British Invasion groups in the 1967 episode "That's Show Biz", written by Austin and Irma Kalish.

"Mr. Tambourine Man" has been covered by many artists over the years, including at least 13 versions recorded in 1965 alone.[8] The Brothers Four recorded a commercial version before the Byrds, but were unable to release it due to licensing issues.[80] In addition, notable recordings of the song have been made by Odetta, Judy Collins, Stevie Wonder, The Four Seasons, The Barbarians, and Chad and Jeremy.[12] Other artists who have covered the song include The Beau Brummels (1966), The Lettermen (1966), Kenny Rankin (1967), Melanie (1968), Gene Clark (1984), Les Fradkin (2007), Bob Sinclar (2009), Jack's Mannequin (2012), and The Flowers of Hell (2012).[8][81] William Shatner also covered the song in a spoken-word recitation on his 1968 album, The Transformed Man.[8][81]

Folk singer Judy Collins covered "Mr. Tambourine Man" in 1965.

Other covers and references

In addition to appearing on The Byrds' debut album, "Mr. Tambourine Man" is included on several Byrds' compilation and live albums, including The Byrds Greatest Hits, Live at Royal Albert Hall 1971, The Very Best of The Byrds, The Essential Byrds, The Byrds Play Dylan, and the live disc of The Byrds' (Untitled) album.[78] The Byrds' version of the song also appears on compilation albums that include hit songs by multiple artists.[78] Two earlier demo recordings of "Mr. Tambourine Man", dating from the World Pacific rehearsal sessions, can be heard on The Byrds' archival albums Preflyte, In the Beginning, and The Preflyte Sessions.[79]

As the 1960s came to a close, folk rock changed and evolved away from the jangly template pioneered by The Byrds,[39] but, Unterberger argues, the band's influence could still be heard in the music of Fairport Convention.[73] Since the 1960s, The Byrds' jangly, folk rock sound has continued to influence popular music up to the present day, with authors Chris Smith, Johnny Rogan, Mark Deming and Stephen Thomas Erlewine all noting the band's influence on such acts as Big Star, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, R.E.M., The Long Ryders, The Smiths, The Bangles, The Stone Roses, Teenage Fanclub, and The La's.[74][75][76][77]

The single reached number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, and number 1 on the UK Singles Chart, making it the first recording of a Dylan song to reach number 1 on any pop music chart.[65][66][67] Critic William Ruhlmann has argued that in the wake of "Mr. Tambourine Man", the influence of The Byrds could be heard in recordings by a number of other Los Angeles-based acts, including The Turtles, The Leaves, Barry McGuire, and Sonny & Cher.[12] In addition, author and music historian Richie Unterberger sees the influence of The Byrds in recordings by The Lovin' Spoonful, The Mamas & the Papas, Simon & Garfunkel, and Love,[45][68] while author John Einarson has noted that both The Grass Roots and We Five enjoyed commercial success by emulating The Byrds' folk rock sound.[69] In addition, a number of commentators, including Richie Unterberger, Scott Plangenhoef, and Ian MacDonald have noted that by late 1965, The Beatles themselves were assimilating the sound of folk rock, and in particular The Byrds, into the material found on their Rubber Soul album, most notably on the songs "Nowhere Man" and "If I Needed Someone".[70][71][72]


The Byrds' recording of the song opens with a distinctive, Bach-inspired guitar introduction played by McGuinn and then, like Dylan's version, goes into the song's chorus.[53] Although Dylan's version contains four verses, The Byrds only perform the song's second verse and two repeats of the chorus, followed by a variation on the song's introduction, which then fades out.[12] The Byrds' arrangement of the song had been shortened during the band's rehearsals at World Pacific Studios in 1964, at the suggestion of Jim Dickson, in order to accommodate commercial radio stations, which were reluctant to play songs that were over two-and-a-half minutes long.[53][54] Thus, while Dylan's version is five-and-a-half minutes long, The Byrds' runs just short of two-and-a-half minutes.[12] The lead vocal on The Byrds' version of "Mr. Tambourine Man" was sung by McGuinn, who attempted to modify his singing style to fill what he perceived as a gap in the popular music scene of the day, somewhere between the vocal sound of John Lennon and Bob Dylan.[53] The song also took on a spiritual aspect for McGuinn during the recording sessions, as he told The Byrds' biographer Johnny Rogan in 1997: "I was singing to God and I was saying that God was the Tambourine Man and I was saying to him, 'Hey, God, take me for a trip and I'll follow you.' It was a prayer of submission."[53]

The master take of "Mr. Tambourine Man" was recorded on January 20, 1965, at Columbia Studios in Hollywood, prior to the release of Dylan's own version.[59] The song's jangling, melodic guitar playing (performed by McGuinn on a 12-string Rickenbacker guitar) was immediately influential and has remained so to the present day.[53] The group's complex harmony work, as featured on "Mr. Tambourine Man," became another major characteristic of their sound.[60] Due to producer Terry Melcher's[52] initial lack of confidence in The Byrds' musicianship, McGuinn was the only Byrd to play on both "Mr. Tambourine Man" and its B-side, "I Knew I'd Want You."[53] Rather than using band members, Melcher hired The Wrecking Crew, a collection of top L.A. session musicians, who (with McGuinn on guitar) provided the backing track over which McGuinn, Crosby, and Clark sang.[61] By the time the sessions for their debut album began in March 1965, however, Melcher was satisfied that the band was competent enough to record its own musical backing.[36] Much of the track's arrangement and final mixdown was modeled after Brian Wilson's production work for the Beach Boys' "Don't Worry Baby".[62][63][64]


Most of the members of The Byrds had a background in folk music,[36] since Jim McGuinn, Gene Clark, and David Crosby had all worked as folk singers during the early 1960s.[46][47] They had also spent time, independently of each other, in various folk groups, including The New Christy Minstrels, The Limeliters, The Chad Mitchell Trio, and Les Baxter's Balladeers.[46][48][49][50] In early 1964, McGuinn, Clark and Crosby formed The Jet Set and started developing a fusion of folk-based lyrics and melodies, with arrangements in the style of The Beatles.[47][51] In August 1964, the band's manager Jim Dickson acquired an acetate disc of "Mr. Tambourine Man" from Dylan's publisher, featuring a performance by Dylan and Ramblin' Jack Elliott.[1][47][52][53] Although the band members were initially unimpressed with the song, they eventually agreed to begin rehearsing and demoing it.[54][55] In an attempt to make it sound more like The Beatles, the band and Dickson elected to give the song a full, electric rock band treatment, effectively creating the musical subgenre of folk rock.[36][53][54] To further bolster the group's confidence in the song, Dickson invited Dylan to hear the band's rendition.[56] Dylan was impressed, enthusiastically commenting, "Wow, you can dance to that!" His endorsement erased any lingering doubts the band had about the song.[56] During this period, drummer Michael Clarke and bass player Chris Hillman joined,[47] and the band changed their name to The Byrds over Thanksgiving 1964.[53] The two surviving demos of "Mr. Tambourine Man" dating from this period feature an incongruous marching band drum part from Clarke but overall the arrangement, which utilized a 4/4 time signature instead of Dylan's 2/4 configuration, is very close to the later single version.[57][58]

An excerpt from a 1964 demo recording of "Mr. Tambourine Man" by The Byrds, highlighting Michael Clarke's militaristic, marching band-style drumming.

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[45][12] However, it was The Byrds who first melded these disparate elements into a unified whole, creating a template for folk rock that would prove successful for many acts during the mid-1960s.[44][43]

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