55 years ago today (January 14th), Bob Dylan began the two days of recording that would be used on his groundbreaking Bringing It All Back Home album, which included “Mr. Tambourine Man.” Less than a week later, The Byrds recorded their own chart-topping version of the song. Why? If you wanted lyrics as good as Bob Dylan’s, you had to record a Dylan song. Original Byrd David Crosby says there was a good reason they chose to record Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man” for their first single — and why Byrds lead singer Roger McGuinn continued to record Dylan songs throughout the band’s career.
“We were into Dylan songs because they were the best songs and we didn’t know anyone else who could write words like that. We knew we wanted to play electric and Roger, who was the essence of The Byrds, had a flair for translating Dylan into something accessible and something floaty and magical. And he did it, and we sang it, and there it was. I still think that that was a milestone in terms of putting really good lyrics on popular radio.”