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Jorge Piñon

Transcribing Mr. Tambourine Man #

October 18, 2015

Tonight my daughter asked me to play Dylan’s Mr. Tambrourine Man for her so she could write down the lyrics. I had played it this morning in the car and she found herself singing along, just like she had done a previous time weeks ago. She has an amazing ability to learn a song’s lyrics after hearing it once or twice.

I could never do that. It takes a lot more rounds to store a song in my memory. Many times I’ve enjoyed a new song so much that I repeat it over and over to the point of embarassment, and then just a couple of times more. In the case of many Bob Dylan songs, this was sometimes combined with writing down the words and even perhaps some sketching (this was before the internet provided easy, ad-riddled access to hundreds of websites full of song lyrics).

It’s always better to write something down yourself in order to learn it, and so after a few seconds of silent excitement over my daughter’s interest in Bobby Z, I happily obliged.

No internet for this! Not even the use of that giant book of Dylan lyrics I have somewhere. I instead set her up with my headphones and queued up the song for her to play and rewind as needed.

Yes’n she played through the whole song tirelessly, pausing when she couldn't understand the words and writing when she could. She got a sense of the imagery and mood. She smiled at the aliteration, and she understood the narrator’s plea. I feel like tonight I was able to create a small space, safe from the ceaseless din of simple pop music, where she could hopefully learn that the words of a song don’t have to be pablum. Music can also include poetry.

I won’t push for more because discovery doesn’t work that way, but if she ever asks for another one I’m thinking either When the Ship Comes In or Boots of Spanish Leather. And someday Lily, Rosemary, and the Jack of Hearts.