The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #53: Mr. Tambourine Man by Bob Dylan (+) Covered by The Byrds (RS)

This list of songs is inspired by lists published by radio station KEXP-FM from Seattle in 2010, as well as the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part I will faithfully countdown from their lists, starting at Song and going until I reach Song . When you see the song title listed as something like: Song (KEXP)….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. Song XXX (RS) means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: Song (KTOM), it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In any case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, just so everyone is aware, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Here is the story behind today’s song. Enjoy.

RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #53: Mr. Tambourine Man by Bob Dylan (+) Covered by The Byrds.

Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me,

I’m not sleepy and there’s no place that I’m going to.

Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me,

In the jingle jangle morning I’ll come following you.”

It is difficult to simply speak those lines that open the song, “Mr. Tambourine Man” by Bob Dylan. If you are anything like me, you fall into a pattern of sing/speak, whereby you say those words in a cadence similar to what Dylan used in the original song. The meaning behind the song remains somewhat mysterious. Many people were convinced that Dylan was referring to drugs and their effects and that “Mr. Tambourine Man” was either a dealer or the drug, itself. But, no greater an authority that Bob Dylan, himself, denied that this was true. He stated that “Mr. Tambourine Man” is really a form of muse that all true artists require in order to remain creative and to move forward with their work. But, Dylan was a regular marijuana user at the time so, not many people take him at his word.

Like many of Dylan’s songs from the 1960s, it is difficult to convey how groundbreaking they actually were. By this time, Dylan was seeking to stretch his musical wings and become more that simply a Folk singer. His foray into the world of Rock n’ Roll included writing songs that were longer, more mysterious when it came to the content of his lyrics and that definitely read equally well as poetry. One of the signs that Bob Dylan’s music was built for a broader audience could be seen in how other artists reached out to cover his work. The first great cover of a Dylan song being, “All Along the WatchTower” by Jimi Hendrix. The next great and important cover was of this song, “Mr. Tambourine Man” by The Byrds. Ironically enough, both versions of “Mr. Tambourine Man”…..Dylan’s acoustic track, along with The Byrds, electric version, were inducted into the Song Category at The Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame, along with both artists, as well.

The Byrds’ version is an important milestone in music history because of the fact that it was recorded using electric guitars; specifically, Roger McGuinn’s twelve-string Rickenbacker guitar. The effect of using electric guitars was to give the song a jangly sound. This jangly sound helped define The Byrds and ushered in a new musical genre called, “Folk Rock”. When the band was rehearsing the song before recording it, they invited Bob Dylan to come over and listen to it in the studio. His reaction was one of delight. It is said that when the song was finished, he clapped his hands and proclaimed that this new version was one that people could dance to and, as such, he gave The Byrds his seal of approval. With their harmonies, their jangle-rock sound and their Beatles/Stones haircuts, many people viewed The Byrds as being the next big thing as the 1960s drew to a close. Unfortunately, the band broke up soon thereafter due to internal tensions and creative differences. But, in their wake, they have left behind a superlative remake of a beautiful song…..just as they did with “Turn, Turn, Turn”, as well.

Ironically enough, even though The Byrds self-destructed, Bob Dylan remains active even too this day. And, sixty years later, “Mr. Tambourine Man” still sounds fresh and relevant and unlike almost anything that passes for music today. If you listen carefully to the lyrics and the way in which Dylan sings them, you will see the foundation of Hip Hop beginning to take shape. A great many of his songs were built on a foundation of rhyming and of rhythm. This musical structure is very apparent in “Mr. Tambourine Man”……..

Take me on a trip upon your magic, swirling ship

My senses have been stripped.

My hands can’t feel to grip.

My toes too numb to step.

Waiting only for my boot heels to be wandering.”

So, without further delay, here is the master, Bob Dylan, and his apprentices, The Byrds, with their own uniquely powerful and important versions of this great song, “Mr. Tambourine Man”. Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “Mr. Tambourine Man” by Bob Dylan, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Bob Dylan, can be found here.

The link to the video for the song, “Mr. Tambourine Man” by The Byrds, can be found here.

The link to the official website for The Byrds, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Rolling Stone Magazine, can be found here.

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