“Let me forget about today until tomorrow”
– Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan was edgy. He smoked. He didn’t care what people thought. He was guru of folk music, neither a singer nor a poet but rather a song and dance man:Bob Dylan\’s Interview on YouTube
And now, he is known as one of the most iconic and revolutionary songwriters of his time. “Mr. Tambourine Man”, featured on his fifth album “Bringing It All Back Home”, was released in March 1965 during the heart of the 1960’s political revolution. Dylan sings (in his own style) about a progressional journey from the public world to an understanding of his own individual consciousness. Essentially, this song explores the principles Blake addresses in “Songs of Innocence” and “Songs of Experience”. Evenmoreso the overall message of “Mr. Tambourine Man” is strikingly similar to Blake’s .
The song came at a paramount time in history, when millions of young adults were beginning to release wild and unexplained emotions. It was a time that pulled everything away from the group and turned all towards the individual. So what’s any of this got to do with Blake? The two artists overlap in a lot more ways than you’d think.
Firstly, both artists created their work during a time of revolution: Blake composed “Songs of Innocence” in 1789 on the brink of the French Revolution and “Songs of Experience” was written around 1792, with events leading up to Louis XVI’s execution. As I’ve stated above, Dylan wrote his song during the heart of the political revolution in U.S.A.
Another way in which the two artists are similar is the voice used within their pieces. Blake composed both his books of poetry in an interactive and engaging dialogue – many of the poems are told over again with a different outlook. Similarly on this notion, the perspective Blake’s speaker takes in his opening poem of “Songs of Experience” could very well be the interactive Tambourine Man that Dylan addresses in “Mr. Tambourine Man”. On the flip side, the “child” within the first stanza of “Introduction” could also be the speaker of Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man”. For example Dylan begins is song exclaiming “Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me”. Paralleling this, Blake’s speaker encounters a child who states: “Pipe a song about a Lamb!”…and then “Piper, pipe that song again.”. With the chorus Dylan repeats in “Tambourine Man”, it is obvious that the two speakers asking for another tune could be the same person.
In regards to the meaning of Dylan’s song – despite his reluctance to acknowledge the ‘subtleties’ or obvious poetic allusions it holds – it is clear that he explores the very truth of mystery and touches on the transcendence of art and music to which Blake addresses within “Songs of Experience” and “Songs of Innocence”. Indeed, the speaker in “Mr. Tambourine Man” is on a journey to find himself and can only find it through the assistance of that Tambourine Man, and in this case, Blake.