Mr. Tambourine Man – The Byrds | Top 40 Chart Performance, Story and Song Meaning

Chart Performance: Pop (#1); 1965

Story Behind The Song By Ed Osborne

One of the most influential bands of the rock era – with pioneering forays into folk, psychedelia, jazz, country, and bluegrass – was the Byrds. The band’s founding members had all played professionally, yet, nothing much happened until David Crosby, Jim (later, Roger) McGuinn, and Chris Hillman saw A Hard Day’s Night and suddenly knew in which direction their future lay. Even though the band resisted recording Mr. Tambourine Man, an unreleased Bob Dylan song, management insisted on its hit potential. For the Byrds’ version, McGuinn took a page from the Beach Boys songbook, building on the rhythm from the California boys’ Don’t Worry Baby. Actually, Jim was the only member of the Byrds to play on the track; the producers hired LA’s top studio guns to stand in for the band. Finished in January, 1965, Mr. Tambourine Man remained unreleased until late spring, and by the end of June it was blasting out of every radio in America.

This content and all Song Meaning articles were created and written by Top 40 Contributing Editor Ed Osborne. © 2023 Ed Osborne. All Rights Reserved. In addition to these song meaning articles, Ed has written our “Year in Music 1960s-1990s” articles.

Produced by:

  • Tom Wilson

Lyrics Written by:

Bob Dylan


  • “Mr. Tambourine” won Best Contemporary (R&R) Group Performance, Vocal or Instrumental at the 1967 Grammy Awards.
  • “Mr. Tambourine” was nominated for Record of the Year at the 1967 Grammy Awards.