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 returned into sand,
Vanished from my hand,
Left me blindly here to stand but still not sleeping.
My weariness amazes me, I'm branded on my feet,
I have no one to meet
And the ancient empty street's too dead for dreaming.

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.

Take me on a trip upon your magic swirlin' ship,
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'.
I'm ready to go anywhere, I'm ready for to fade
Into my own parade, cast your dancing spell my way,
I promise to go under it.

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 you might hear laughin', spinnin', swingin' madly across the sun,
It's not aimed at anyone, it's just escapin' on the run
And but for the sky there are no fences facin'.
And if you hear vague traces of skippin' reels of rhyme
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
Seein' that he's chasing.

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.

Then take me disappearin' through the smoke rings of my mind,
Down the foggy ruins of time, far past the frozen leaves,
The haunted, frightened trees, out to the windy beach,
Far from the twisted reach of crazy sorrow.
Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free,
Silhouetted by the sea, circled by the circus sands,
With all memory and fate driven deep beneath the waves,
Let me forget about today until tomorrow.

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.


Lyrics submitted by oofus


Mr. Tambourine Man song meanings
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193 Comments

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  • +9
    General CommentDudes you have it totally wrong. While you can only marvel at Mr. Dylan beautiful lyrics, the true meaning of the song has been lost on you. For those of you who thinks this song is about drugs, pray tell, where are the drug references? what drug is "Mr. Tambourine Man" associated with. Just because the speaker in the lyrics is in another realm does not mean he got there due to drugs. "Mr Tambourine Man" is a musician. He is a source of inspiration. Much like Keat's "Ode to a Nightingale", this song is about getting inspiration (ie being able to achieve enlightenment) . Whereas the clown follows the shadow, the speaker follows the Tambourine Man because he is the real deal. He is where inspiration comes from. And since Dylan chose a man playing the tambourine as the title/"inspirator", it is safe to assume that he is making a statement about his art. Musician, with their music, inspire the people who truly understands the lyrics (case in point: this very debate) . While the clowns of this world merely copy the style, the form, and the tone of the lyrics, the inspired people understand and see their world in a new light (ie the passages about nature and their surroundings) . This new understanding can thereby make the audience into better people.
    hpylorion August 02, 2002   Link
  • +8
    General CommentThis song is so genius that it has so many people arguing about its meaning even today!

    The people who believe it is a drug song can back it up in every single line of the song. Hpylori can also back up his interpretation in, you guessed it, every single line of the song.

    My point is, that art is derived from inspiration, whether it came from pure mind or a drug induced state, and that art was created for the purpose of expressing, viewing, experimenting with, and explaining life while also providing us comfort and an escape from life. Therefore art and drugs, in a very strong way, are one and the same. They can both be used to further understand or to escape from life.
    curious georgeon June 21, 2003   Link
  • +7
    My InterpretationIt’s the high that you feel when you’re tired from doing a lot of things and have done them well. You’re tired (“my weariness amazes me”), but feel energetic and good. So you don’t want to sleep. He’s walking in NYC at maybe 6:00 in the morning feeling good in this way. The streets are empty and dead. “The ancient empty street’s too dead for dreaming”. Yet he seeks sensory stimulation of some sort because he’s not “dead” – though weary, he’s feeling so alive. Then he gets behind a tambourine man who’s walking along, playing the instrument. Mental stimulation he so needs, amid the otherwise deadness. That’s all it takes, in that state of mind. He’s elated by and for that moment reveres the tambourine man. It’s a momentary kind of unique feeling which Dylan perfectly lyricizes for this song. Tomorrow he may see the tambourine man and not even notice.
    dylaniteon July 03, 2012   Link
  • +6
    General CommentI always get incredibly sad when I hear this song. It seems to be about the existential lonliness of earthly happiness. A guy with a tambourine can't really play a song.
    tomatoboyyon June 10, 2002   Link
  • +3
    General CommentBob Dylan TOOK drugs, sure, but that doesn't necessarily mean the songs are ABOUT drugs.

    "yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free, silhouetted by the sea, circled by the circus sands with all memory and fate driven deep beneath the waves let me forget about today until tomorrow" are my favorite lines in the song. they create such a beautiful mental picture.
    miseraon June 09, 2002   Link
  • +3
    General CommentAdrenaline kicking from a sleepless night. Exhausted but too excited, feeling energetic, and most of all feeling good from doing a lot of things -feeling alive!

    Following a tambourine man. Like a child to Pied Piper, although he is tired physically, mentally and emotionally he is following Mr. Tambourine man, wanting him to play his song so that he can be taken by the music and for once, even in a short moment, he can escape momentarily. He wants to feel how it's like to enjoy life without worries.

    In short, Mr. Tambourine man symbolizes the heart. We have to follow the beating of our hearts and enjoy life as it comes for what it's worth.

    "Let me forget about today until tomorrow" meaning, he wants to forget today's trouble and have fun even just for today. But, he will return to his normal life tomorrow.
    bernadeth1on October 24, 2012   Link
  • +2
    General CommentThe song isn't about drugs. It's about how you feel when you're dieing from old age. I don"t know how Dylan could know of this being young at the time he wrote it. (maybe drugs) (or some real spiritual sence) To an aged person the lyics make perfect sence. Entertainment to take them to the great beyond.
    no1knowson December 15, 2004   Link
  • +2
    General CommentWhoever said it was about death was absolutely right. It is an imaginative combining of the process of dying ("my senses have been stripped"), longing to go on that trip (an obvious pun), and the eventual funeral procession - what else could his own parade mean? He is still there "not sleepy" , feeling his soul fade as they lay him to rest, to the music of a tambourine.

    See this link for New Orleans parades and funerals

    nola.com/mardigras/about/…
    Unpredictableon February 18, 2005   Link
  • +2
    General CommentA bunch of years ago, 1970's?, I went to a small concert with the folksinger Chuck Mitchell (Joni Mitchell's first husband - and he hated to be refered to as that). Well he gave a great concert to less than 100 people at the "Down Under" coffee house at FSU (Tallahassee Florida). He started playing the chords to a song and told a story about he and Bob Dylan were up in the attic of someone's house. He told us that Dylan actually shared the meaning to him. He said it referred to the one common musician in all New Orleans Jazz funerals. Wealthy people would get a marching band in fancy uniforms, poorer people might only get a few musicians. He claimed the tradition was there was always a Tambourine player who didn't march in formation, or where a matching uniform. This was for rich people and poor people. He claimed that the Tambourine Man symbolized DEATH and that's it. The entire song is about death and not drugs. He then did a great version of the song with all the verses. The death interpretation makes perfect sense if you listen to all the verses.
    especially:
    Take me on a trip upon your magic swirlin' ship,
    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'.
    I'm ready to go anywhere, I'm ready for to fade
    Into my own parade, cast your dancing spell my way,
    I promise to go under it.

    When you are dead all your senses are stripped.

    Chuck Mitchell's story sounded very convincing, and I could not have come up with this interpretation myself.
    gsokolowon October 31, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General CommentGreat songs. The ending lyrics are some of the best i have ever heard. Even though this song is one of his most popular, and made mainstream by The Byrds it still seems to repeat in my mind all the time.
    FreeWheelinon May 01, 2004   Link

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