Growing up, I held a sort of disdain for the tambourine. Part of it stemmed from grade school music class and the racket we would cause with them. Also, it always seemed that in the music groups they would give the spare lead singer a tambourine to make him feel like he was playing an instrument. (Remember Davy Jones when he wasn't singing? It was either tambourine or maracas.) In the past couple of years, I have acquired an appreciation for the tambourine. I think it was after seeing the documentary "Standing in the Shadows of Motown" (HT: Jonny Rocket). It was about the Funk Brothers, the backing band of all the great Motown vocal groups. When you listen to the great songs of Motown, you can really hear the tambourine if you listen for it. And when you do, you hear how integral it was for creating their sound. Plus, try listening to "Ticket to Ride" and "Wait" by the Beatles and you will hear the greatness of the tambourine.
So...hear's to the tambourine. Enjoy this clip from the documentary. Joan Osborne and the Funk Brothers doing a great version of one of my favorite Motown songs, "Heatwave."