Mr. Tambourine Man
Writer(s): Bob Dylan (see lyrics here)
Released: April 12, 1965
First Charted: May 8, 1965
Peak: 11 US, 11 CB, 11 HR, 1 CL, 12 UK (Click for codes to singles charts.)
Sales (in millions): -- US, -- UK, -- world (includes US + UK)
Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 14.88 video, 71.04 streaming
Click on award for more details.
About the Song:
“Mr. Tambourine Man” “elevated [Bob] Dylan from folk hero to bona fide star.” RS500 He partly wrote it “during a drug-fueled cross-country trek in 1964” RS500 and recorded it on January 15, 1965. RS500 Some people interpreted itas being about a drug pusher, but Dylan said the song was inspired by Bruce Langhorne, a guitarist who brought a tambourine to the recording session which he said was “as big as a wagon wheel.” SJ
“If nobody sings Dylan like Dylan, the Byrds at least came close.” MA The band heard a demo and, although they weren’t completely sold on it, recorded their own version five days after Dylan. RS500 The original version “was a multi-versed acoustic meander through typically elliptical wordplay,” TB but the Byrds whittled it down to a one-verse, more conventional three minute single. HL Dylan said of their recording, “Wow, man. You can even dance to that!” RS500
Roger McGuinn said, “I just rearranged it into a Beatles song.” TC Not only did the recording tap ino the Beatles harmonies, but a Beach Boys’ beat, and a bit of Bach in the guitar intro. RP His “chiming twelve-string Rickenbacker guitar became folk rock’s defining sound.” RS500 Interestingly, while fellow Byrds David Crosby and Gene Clark did add backing harmonies, TC McGuinn was the only member to actually play on the hit, RS500 with the other instruments being handled by session musicians.
“The Tambourine Man was the Pied Piper for others to follow.” HL It “started the folk-rock movement” SJ “and the whole singer/songwriter tradition.” TC McGuinn said, however, that “We weren’t really thinking about the folk background. In fact, we were trying to subdue it and become legitimate rock & roll people. Fortunately, we weren’t able to shake it, and the residue is what made us sound interesting.” TC
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First posted 4/18/2020; last updated 10/8/2021.