(Gibson) On this day in 1964, Bob Dylan first recorded one of his most famous songs. "Mr. Tambourine Man" was a song the folk artist had written earlier in the year, around the same time as "Chimes of Freedom." Unlike "Chimes," with its politically conscious bent, "Tambourine" took the young songwriter into new territory.
It's thought that Dylan began writing the song during a trip to Mardi Gras and that the colorful and often surrealistic imagery in the song ("your magic swirling ship") was directly inspired by the festivities in New Orleans. Some critics and writers have found references to the poetry of Arthur Rimbaud, while Dylan himself later said that he was influenced by Federico Fellini's La Strada when writing the song.
Many have theorized that "Mr. Tambourine Man" is about drugs – specifically LSD – with the title character serving as code for a drug dealer. But Dylan has denied this, largely because he hadn't even tried LSD at the time the song was written. So who is "Mr. Tambourine Man"? Some have suggested it's Bob's muse, or that it's the Pied Piper, a gospel preacher or even Jesus Christ. A more literal interpretation links the song to guitarist Bruce Langhorne, because he brought a four-inch deep Turkish frame drum – similar to a tambourine – to a previous Dylan recording session. more on this story