Mr. Tambourine Man by the Byrds

The Meaning of the song “Mr. Tambourine Man”


Mr. Tambourine Man is a classic song that was written by Bob Dylan in the 1960’s. This song while attributed to

drugs is not all about being high. Mr. Tambourine Man meaning is more than just about the drugs that Dylan was used to using by this point in his life. It is also a song about inspiration. The symbols of inspiration in Mr. Tambourine Man actually fight for dominance in the song, even though there are obvious references to drugs in Mr. Tambourine Man.

Mr. Tambourine Man symbols begin in the first line of the song “Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me, I’m not sleepy and there is no place I’m going to.” Dylan is looking to his muse, the tambourine man to come visit him. He uses the tambourine man as symbols of inspiration in Mr. Tambourine Man. He is getting nowhere with his song writing. He needs a point of inspiration and focus in order to write songs. The Tambourine Man in this case is a symbol of his muse.

Drugs in Mr. Tambourine Man are also prominent. During the 1960’s Dylan was known for his drug use. The line “Take me on a trip upon your magic swirlin’ ship” is often attributed to his drug use. My senses have been stripped, my hands can’t feel to grip, my toes too numb to step, wait only for my boot heels to be wanderin’.” This all has to do with his addiction to LSD, a psychotropic drug that often is said to make users ‘trip’ on people. Mr. Tambourine symbols are not just of the inspiration that he seeks for his songs, it’s also about the drugs that he may have used as inspiration for some of his songs. The mention of drugs in Mr. Tambourine Man is very subtle but it is there.

Symbols of inspiration in Mr. Tambourine Man continue more prevalently throughout the song. “To your tambourine in time, it’s just a ragged clown behind, I wouldn’t pay it any mind, it’s just a shadow you’re seen’ that he’s chasing.” This is the muse that Dylan’s chasing. He feels that in time it is just a ragged clown that he ignores at times but he’s still chasing the muse.

“Though I know that evenin’s empire has returned into sand, vanished from my hand, left me blindly here to stand by still not sleeping.” Mr. Tambourine Man meaning that he is still chasing his muse even when it seems like he is out of ideas, he still is still searching for his muse. That phrase can also be used to show drugs in Mr. Tambourine Man as well. This could be interpreted as being he’s out of drugs and he’s too wired to sleep. His empire has returned to sand, he’s out of his inspiration forming drugs.

When Bob Dylan wrote Mr. Tambourine Man there is little question of whether or not he was taking drugs. When he speaks of Mr. Tambourine Man, the meaning is one of both inspiration and finding your muse while speaking of the high he gets from the drugs. In many cases the Mr. Tambourine Man symbols allude to both inspiration and drugs. They two go hand in hand for Dylan.



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