Bob Dylan wrote the song Mr. Tambourine man first half of the year 1964. He picked it up the following year for the album Bringing it all home. That same year, Byrds took up a version of the song. That version went to the top Billboard list and is the only song Dylan has done.
The arrangemet which accompanies this article is based on Dylan's version. The notes for the Byrd´s riff are in the arrangement if someone wants to play it. Dylan played the song with a capo on the third fret. There it sound small triad higher than the chords. But of course you place the capo with regards to the pitch the singer can handle. I myself find it hard to sing the song to F so I lower the tone and put the capo on second fret. Dylan dropped the E bass a whole tone down to D. I think the purpose of that was to increase possibility to vary the bass playing. It sounds good to use the E string in the bass when both D and A chords are played and hit DsusXNUMX and DsusXNUMX once and a while to decorate D sound.
Click on the image to get pdf text, chords and notes. Click on the image to get text, chords and notes. Various have made it clear that the text is about drugs, but Dylan himself has corrected it. Seeing Bruce Langhorne in a recorder with a size of a Turkish drum with fixed bells, Dylan's enthusiasm aroused and turned on the text. The text is pure, like most of Dylan's lyrics, and I have a much deeper depth than if it covered any syrup. Bruce, who played the backdrop that can be heard from Dylan's recording from 1965.Click on the image to get the chords.
You can endlessly speculate about what Dylan is about what Dylan was thinking when writing the text. The text was composed after the Mardi Gras festival in New Orleans. The song begins with the chorus where the narrator talks to a man with a tambourine and asks him to sing . Immediately, you get the feeling that the song is about loneliness.
The first verce continues to deal with loneliness and one senses emptiness and fatigue. It is quite clear that the narrator dead tired both mentally and phisicly. This thougths awakens when all is quiet again after the festival. It was the text in verse two which raised the question if the text dealt with drugs. I think the text of the message simply indicates a desire to get away from it all. The desire that many find when the strain is high and they would like to escape from it. Then it is good to have someone you can trust perfectly and blindly to lead you to a better place. The tambourine man is a reference to that someone. It can also be seen that the tambourine man represents music in general over the head and that music is the medicine for worries and fatigue.