Bob Dylan, Bringing It All Back Home Essay Example

  • Category:
    Literature
  • Document type:
    Essay
  • Level:
    Undergraduate
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Mr. Tambourine Man Analysis

Mr. Tambourine man is a popular song by Bob Dylan, which was released in 1965 as one of the songs in the album titled Bringing It All Back Home. Being of the rock genre, the song has been done by several other artists and it has always topped charts all over the world. The song has also been translated into other languages and has been used as a soundtrack in films. This shows that the song has been a great success since the 1960s, and it has found meaning among diverse people around the world.

Artistic creations often evoke a certain feeling and are also used to express the artist’s innermost beliefs and feelings on a specific issue. However, a single piece can explore different issues (Reichl 241). These could be done using plays, poems and songs. In order to analyse the various issues that a literary piece explores, the themes, aspects of style and characterization as expressed by the author are vital. Songs use words that are poetically arranged and employ refrains, which bear considerable weight of the issue, which is constantly repeated after the end of each stanza. Songs and oral poems possess this aspect of refrain but the difference is that the refrain becomes the chorus in oral songs. Reichl (243) observes that songs bear great resemblance because they originate from a single source and migrate to different mediums. It is important to identify the resilient features of a song before attempting analysis. For instance, different songs are classified based on the context, the themes, the tonal variation and aspects of style. A specific genre is thus analysed based on the context in which the writer approaches the subject. According to Bratcher (156), after classifying a song into its genre, the analysis should follow an examination of the content and an in depth view of the mood, tone and the writer’s or singer’s attitude. Contemporary songs are grouped into genres that include rock, hip hop, classical musical, soul, rap and blues; but there are variations to these because one song can combine two genres.

Bob Dylan’s Mr. Tambourine man is in the rock genre of music. It begins with a sombre mood. The song captivates the listener right from the first beat. It is apparent that Dylan reminisces the lost days, and laments about lost chances as is evident when he says, “There was one thing I tried to do which wasn’t a good idea for me. I tried to write another ‘Mr. Tambourine Man.’ It’s the only song I tried to write ‘another one’ (Shelton 274). Considering the tone of the song, it is arranged in a soft tone, which denotes that the singer is melancholic. Schwartz and Schinder (264) note that Bob Dylan’s compositions are often filled with melancholy and sadness. His musical pieces evoke a sad tone that often leaves the reader reminiscing of the past. Most analysts observe that Mr. Tambourine man is written to draw the listener to the attention of the fact that lost chances and opportunities only breed regrets.The unique aspect of this song is that it begins with a chorus, unlike most songs. This stamps the message contained in the chorus and is intended to bring the listener to the main message of the song.

This song expresses the singer’s deep feelings, which suggest that although he may have regrets, he is still determined to listen to Mr. Tambourine as a way out of his situation. He looks at Mr. Tambourine’s tunes as purgative, which is evident when he sings, “In the jingle jangle morning I’ll come following you”. Shelton (275) observes that Dylan views the Tambourine man as bearing religious salvation by bringing joyful noise to the church.

The lyrics have confounding revelations that scholars have written about. The writer’s choice of words is viewed as inferring that Bon Dylan is driven by his cultist affiliation and belief in the prophetic works of his religious affiliation. This is revealed in a number of ways in his works. For instance, analysts such as Hirschman (2) consider the song to be a dedication to the Cthulhu cult belief. Most importantly, the song reveres the existence of a special force that he believes shall rise in due time to take control of the current situation. The chorus is a possible reference to this force that Dylan says he is unable to leave. As noted earlier, the song begins with a chorus that reiterates the presence of this force. Dylan notes that there is no place that he is going neither will he sleep. The singer vows to follow the lead and that he cannot go a different way from the gods.

Hirschman (2) notes that the song is a likely confirmation of Dylan’s commitment to his belief. In his assertion, he cites a number of lines and words in which the narrator asserts the enormity and powers that the gods poises. For instance, the singer states the purpose of the Tambourine man. Pointedly, the tambourine man is a creation of the narrator; a potential shadow chaser whose purpose is often overlooked and motivation misunderstood. The clear fact is that the narrator calls on the tambourine man to play a song since he has nowhere to go. It is possible to infer that the singer asserts that there is not any place where the present problems can be solved. The singer states that there are shadows that the tambourine man chases is the same shadow that he is pursuing. Bob Dylan’s perception of this chase is confounding. It is apparent that the chase has no meaningful end. The song fails to explain what why shadow chase is necessary. It is possible to speculate that the narrator is oblivious of the eventual course action he intends to take once he captures the shadow. The singer states that he is ready to follow and asserts his allegiance to the divine power that the song so openly upholds. The following stanza and words reveal this claim. “Though I know that evenin’s empire has returned into sand / Vanished from my hand” (5-6). The line is a revelation of the singer’s view that all is gone and the only option he has is to look to the force that the Tambourine man bears.

The song ends with a tone of reassurance and hope after assertions of inequity and desolation. In verse four, the narrator is certain that the force can take him to the better place where sorrows and suffering do not exist. Whereas his critics associate the verse with reference to drugs. The song gets interesting and debatable at this point where this line is about a joyful journey, but it is not supposedly about drugs. Although the line might not be about drugs, it is, however, debatable that Dylan was so influenced by drugs that the song’s lyrics reflect that fact.

“Then take me disappearing through the smoke rings of my mind.

Far from the twisted reach of crazy sorrow’’ verse 7.
The haunted, frightened trees, out to the windy beach
Down the foggy ruins of time, far past the frozen leaves

Drawing evidence from the song, it is observable that Dylan employs different aspects of style order to explore the subject adequately. The song is a popular rock that integrates the features of a dirge. According to Dillon (234), the song employs major aspects of popular rock and is composed of melancholy and an expression of the dissatisfaction with the normal societal factors that guide human feelings. According to Wicke (67), rock music does not seek to celebrate the literary aspects of songs but is a platform through which discontented and emotionally hurt individuals express their views. However, this it is notable that the rock artists employ specific approaches to their compositions in order to make their compositions unique and confounding. For example, Bob Dylan’s use of allegory in this composition goes a long way in elaborating the subject and the context. Denzin (72) notes that the song was a code given its time of publication and the fact that race and drugs were hot topics that bore heavy impacts on the American society. It should be noted that the song has drawn mixed reactions in regard to what Bob Dylan sought to address. Denzin (72) makes an interesting observation that the singer is calling on Mr. Tambourine man to come and fix him a shot of cocaine because Dylan is a cocaine addict.

Symbolism is a common technique in music and this particular song opens with the symbolic rock guitar. It is notable that the singer employs a number of symbolic sounds and scenarios that better explain the major theme of the song. Zak (64) notes that symbolism in music is associated with the identity of the artist, styles and the target audience. Mr. Tambourine man explores the main challenges that human beings face. The challenges are many, but he chooses to concentrate on the identity and the emptiness that most people encounter in the course of their living. In verse four, the narrator asks the Tambourine man to take him to a better place because his current state of life is chaotic as indicated in the lines below. Mr. Tambourine man thus symbolizes salvation and reprieve for the singer.

“ Far from the twisted reach of crazy sorrow
the haunted, frightened trees, out to the windy beach
Down the foggy ruins of time, far past the frozen leaves

Silhouetted by the sea, circled by the circus sands’’ verse 7.
Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free

Sweers (35) observes that characterization in music plays a key role in the development of the themes and the plot of an artistic piece. The two main characters in the song are the singer and Mr. Tambourine man. The singer is considerably unable to overcome his woes while the Tambourine man is compared to an angel; promising the desired freedom that the singer longs for. Pointedly, the song uses characterization to inform the audience that even though there are challenges, there are possible remedies and that the individual should look beyond the normal environment and people around them for change (Sweers 35). It is notable that the different aspects of style the song employs have distinct roles in telling the story. The narrator’s use of non-formal English in this song adds to the mystery with which Mr. Tambourine man is presented. He is presented as an abstract character because even though the singer implores him to take him to a better place, it is unclear whether there indeed a better place where the tambourine man can take him. Rorabaugh (204) notes that informal language fosters cultural identity and enables the song to have a cross cultural effect on the audience.

Mr. Tambourine man is a compound song that uses multiple aspects of art including symbolism and allegory. The song is also a melancholic piece of music that the singer uses to communicate deep feelings of dissatisfaction and frustration about his life. It is also about his efforts to seek a way out of his current situation, which he hopes to find from Mr. Tambourine man. The song thus manages to send a strong message to the audience about the singer’s dilemma. At the same time, however, the song bears mixed meanings and the singer lets the audience decipher a meaning that is meaningful to them. This is evident in the various interpretations made from the song. Overall, the singer has managed to deliver a piece of music that is fascinating and from which the audience can find meaning.

Works Cited

Bratcher, Melanie E. Words and Songs of Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, and Nina Simone: Sound Motion, Blues Spirit, and African Memory. New York: Routledge, 2007. Print.

Dylan, Bob. Lyrics: 1962-2001 Mr. Tambourine Man. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2004. Pages 152-153.

Denzin, Norman K. Reading Race: Hollywood and the Cinema of Racial Violence. London: SAGE Publishers, 2002. Print.

Hirschman, D.
Mr. Tambourine Man: Enchanting Song or Warning of the Return of the Old Ones? A Textual Analysis. A sociologist’s common place book.

Reichl, Karl. Medieval Oral Literature. Berlin: DeGruyter, 2011. Print.

Rorabaugh, W J. Kennedy and the Promise of the Sixties. Cambridge, U.K: Cambridge University Press, 2002. Print.

No direction home, The life and music of Bob Dylan. Shelton, Robert.

New York: Beech Tree Books William Morrow, 1986. Print.

Sweers, Britta. Electric Folk: The Changing Face of English Traditional Music. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006. Print.

Wicke, Peter. Rock Music: Culture, Aesthetics, and Sociology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990. Print.

Zak, Albin. The Poetics of Rock: Cutting Tracks, Making Records. Berkeley, California: University of California Press, 2001. Print.