What does Mr. Tambourine Man mean?

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Bob Dylan: Mr. Tambourine Man Meaning

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Mr. Tambourine Man Lyrics

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 followin' you.

Though I know that evenin's empire has...

  1. anonymous
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    Apr 13th 2012 report

    I've found through life that the people who always think that particular songs are all about drugs, are on drugs themselves.

  2. m320753
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    Apr 2nd 2012 report

    This could be the song he referred to in " when I paint my masterpiece" but then again not.

  3. anonymous
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    Feb 25th 2012 report

    Bruce Langhorne, a friend of dylans who played on "corrina corrina" from freewheelin' and on the bringing it all back home sessions, brought a giant tambourine to the studio at some point, and the image of the tambourine stuck in dylans mind.

    To me the song is in search of inspiration, love, or even disenchantment. At any muse you would like, God, drugs, or a woman. i dont think dylan could even answer who Mr. Tambourine Man is. in the verses he is pleading for the advice the muse could him

  4. anonymous
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    Nov 25th 2011 report

    In the first verse I think the speaker had just come down from a drug trip..."evenings empire has returned into sand" means he has now returned to a normal state after a trip. Then "vanished from my hand," could mean he has no more drugs left and he is now looking for the Tambourine Man who is a reference for a drug dealer.
    The next verse starts out "take me on a trip upon your magic swirling ship." This is pretty obvious as to what that means, he is going into another drug trip. He then talks about how his “hands cant feel” and his “toes are too numb to step,” which are the effects of whatever drug he took. “Cast your dancing spell my way, I promise to go under it," is definitely him asking the Tambourine Man for drugs.

  5. anonymous
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    Nov 25th 2011 report

    To me, this song is about escaping from reality and the horrors and struggles that we face in this world. There are many ways to escape reality, so drugs playing a role is these lyrics is entirely possible, but you could also argue that it is simply about wanting to go somewhere safe and happy. Perhaps a fairytale land... maybe even a personal heaven of sorts... That is how I prefer to see it.

  6. anonymous
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    Oct 10th 2011 report

    I have no doubt that the tamborine man was/is a real person, that Dylan actually knew but i think he has adopted the character to something or someone alot more significant.Perhaps drugs, in some instances it sounds like it:"Smoke rings in my mind",as if he was smoking something.But i am lead more towards him loosing himself in the hugeness and greatness of God,Jesus being the Tamborine man and Dylan following behind him chasing his shadow making rhyms to the Lords great Tamborine in time.Dylan seems to portray himself as being insignificant "A racket clown" but hes just being modest.

  7. Phil Broley
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    Jul 1st 2011 report

    I feel its about change, bullshit, and life "I wouldnt pay it any mind" Seems to me to be the key to it. To change things you have to think differently, and Bob starts this song with the chorus totally busting song structure of popular music of the time he wrote it and even now, the mans a Legend any how, the peoples rapper ;O

  8. stymie
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    Jun 16th 2011 report

    This is not a drug song. It is rather in the tradition of great Biblical laments. The person has traversed this "veil of tears" again and again and now seeks the serenity of peace. He's at the end of his rope---he is "branded on his feet" and can go no further. The "ancient empty" street which has ground down so many has no appeal. His own weariness, a companion of many years, is more enervating than ever and cannot be borne anymore. He seeks to look at the diamonded skies with the un-memoried clarity of youth and without the desolation and "foggy ruins" of misbegotten deeds that beseige his soul.
    It is as spot on as Job of the old testament.

  9. anonymous
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    Feb 13th 2011 report

    I'm not sure what the song's meaning is but I know it's a deep exploration of human happiness from a 60's perspective. I don’t buy the idea that its about drugs. One of the early lines says he’s not sleepy. So he's not in a drug induced state. Thousands of words pour from his head - especially when he was young - without drugs.

    I'm a literal person and plenty of lines in the song are literal. Those lines are easy to understand.

    “I'm not sleepy and there is no place I'm going to.” I'm branded on my feet is just a wonderful – maybe manly – mood. I have no one to meet speaks of freedom from responsibility for that moment. Any responsible adult can understand that.

    Take me on a trip upon your majic swirling ship…could be about drugs. Wait only for my boot heels to wandering speaks to me of a lack of identity. But clearly the song is not about an identity crisis or insecurity. Its about a I’m caught up with my responsibilities, happiness. We can all read this song any way we want. As Robert Hunter says he didn’t like to write lyrics on album covers. He wanted the listenter to hear what ever they heard.

    But for the sky, there are no fences facing…Its free happiness expressed in a 60s, imaginative, way. You just wouldn't hear of a 50s song lyric about happiness expressed the same way.

    With all memory and fate driven deep beneath the waves let me forget about today until tomorrow. He’s living in the moment. He’s fearless of the moment.

    Does it tie back to the hypnotic quality of a tambourine part? I’m a drummer and remember how the Beatles – Ringo – used tambourine in the early songs to great effect. The part gave a subtle but hypnotic effect to the song.

    So I don’t try to figure out the far out stuff. It’s a very prolific wordsmith spouting out words like a fountain. I just try to understand the literal lines.

    Dylan has got a thousand of words the way Garcia had thousands of notes, or a great painter a thousand colors. All great musicians are prolific. I don’t’ think much about Dylan's far out lines - Gates of Eden is just crazy. I think he just loved throwing words out there without caring about their meaning. He liked their percussive juxtaposition. He liked collisions of sound. I think he was influenced by Picasso.

  10. anonymous
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    Feb 8th 2011 report

    It can't be about crystal meth! Crystal meth did not exist until the eighties as a cheaper alternative to cocaine.

  11. Mick Wagner
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    Jan 26th 2011 report

    It appears to me, as though the song is written from the point of view of the musician/artist, who feels as though he's being taken for granted by his audience; they hear the words and the melodies, but they don't take the meaning of the song. So, he feels like an anonymous "tambourine man" "play[ing] a song" for the amusement of his audience, who blindly follow and worship him ("In the jingle-jangle mornin', I'll come following you."), without really appreciating the message he's trying to impart. Remember, Dylan saw himself primarily, at this time, as a poet, and he was becoming increasingly frustrated with the business aspect of show business, and the shallowness of the mass audience.

    "Take me for a trip" is NOT a reference to drug use; Dylan was very paranoid about such references in his early songwriting career, and in fact, his admiration for the early Beatles (and their subsequent friendship) was based upon his mis-hearing of their lyric "I can't hide" (from: I Wanna Hold Your Hand), as "I get high"! He had originally wanted to meet them, because he mistakenly thought it was so courageous of them to come right out and say it like that! The lyrics of the second verse seem to me to actually be referring to the "glitzy" side of the recording business - the interviews, cocktail parties and "meet-n-greet" events that ANY successful recording artist is expected to do, but which Dylan absolutely HATED! ("I'm ready to go anywhere, I'm ready for today.")

    I think of the song as a parallel to Billy Joel's "Piano Man", or Dire Straits' "Sultans of Swing". Many musicians have written songs about their frustration with the mendacity of the life "on the road".

  12. anonymous
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    Jan 22nd 2011 report

    In my opinion I think the song is about a depressed homeless person that was doing drugs (heroin) which has no where else to go or meet in life also by referring himself as a ragged clown behind I wouldn't pay it any mind meaning that no one cares if he lives or dies. So this is what the song means to me.

  13. anonymous
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    Jan 10th 2011 report

    Just to briefly clarify, this song was written 1964-65. No modern day crystal back then.

  14. leslie.rolph
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    Aug 26th 2010 report

    Without doubt this song is a masterpiece. Dylan is quite obviously looking for someone. He's definitely looking for someone special a messenger a Messiah who will come playing and singing songs. He's been waiting for a long time for his friend to appear. There are many other songs in his catalog about this messiah such as The Mighty Quinn and Senor, but this is my favorite.

  15. lessonnumbertwo
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    May 21st 2010 report

    In my opinion the author wants to find (or try) something new, something different, special. And for that he needs the help of someone (a reference) since nothing fascinates him no more, the inspiration is now gone, he is tired and he does not know what to do. He just knows that right now, he has no directions and he is, i would say, a little lost. He needs a lead that will take him to a "new world". The song represents something he consider to be helpfull since it is inspiring and it will make him reach "something else", "another side", the "new world".




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