“Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is a Season)” by The Byrds
Some readers who never heard of this track or The Byrds even may be familiar with most of the lyrics nonetheless, as they are by and large derived verbatim from the Book of Ecclesiastes. For whatever reason, Ecclesiastes has become sort of a forgotten segment of the Bible. This is even though it is one of the more-generally relatable, i.e. being more philosophical than spiritual in nature.
For example, Peter Seeger, the writer of this song, admitted that he was far from what you would call a Bible man himself, though he was feeling some parts of the Good Book, such as this one.
So what we are dealing with here more specifically is the beginning of the third chapter of Ecclesiastes, i.e. lyrics that had already, if you will, been in circulation for two millennia prior to this song dropping. But it has been ascertained that one of the reasons The Byrds’ rendition of “Turn! Turn! Turn!” became a hit, besides for the colorful way in which they arranged the folk tune, was due to the internal state of America at the time.
That is to say that this song was released smack dab in the middle of the 1960s which, outside of the Civil War era itself, can perhaps be deemed the generally-contentious decade in American history. What the lyrics posit most notably in that regard is that yes, there is “a time of war”, which was something listeners were well aware of, as the United States was engaged in the controversial Vietnam at the time. But the audience was also treated to an idea that many (i.e. the likes of hippies) would have been glad to hear, i.e. there being “a time of peace” and “of love” also.
Indeed one of the modifications to the original Biblical reading that this song makes is mentioning the “time for peace” phrase twice, though it only appears once in Ecclesiastes. In fact it concludes with that term, followed by the term “it’s not too late”, the latter being something, with the latter not appearing in Ecclesiastes at all.
So yes, there is a lot of, shall we say existential musing going on in this piece. But the conclusive message is along the lines that not only can peace be attained, but also, by implication, it is something that we should strive towards. And again, even as pertinent as that message may be here and now, it was something many people really needed to hear in the 1960s, fresh after World War II and at a time when the world-leading United States may have seemed to some as if it would implode.
Release Date of “Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is a Season)”
This song dates back to the late 1950s as penned by Pete Seeger (1919-2014), who was a prominent musician of his day. The first group to officially drop a rendition “Turn! Turn! Turn!” was a folk act known as The Limeliters in 1962.
However, it was The Byrds’ version, which was released on 1 October 1965, that proved to be a hit. For instance, their version topped the Billboard Hot 100. It also achieved the same feat on the US Cash Box Top 100. The song also proved to be a chart topper in Canada and New Zealand. In addition to that, it fared okay on the UK Singles Chart. Overall, it can be counted as one of The Byrds’ most-successful singles.
The Byrds also named their second album after this track, i.e. “Turn! Turn! Turn!”, which was put out by Columbia Records. At the time the band, which hails from L.A., was held down by these musicians:
- Roger McGuinn (the lead vocalist on the track)
- Gene Clark (tambourinist, 1944-1991)
- David Crosby (guitarist)
- Michael Clarke (drummer, 1946-1993)
- Chris Hillman (bassist)
It was actually Roger (aka Jim) McGuinn’s idea that The Byrds should take a crack at “Turn! Turn! Turn!”. This was after he was already involved in the recording of The Limeliters’ original, as well as working more directly on Judy Collins’ cover which was assembled prior to that of The Byrds, which came out in 1963.
Other artists who have covered this song include Nina Simone (1969) and Dolly Parton. The latter actually covered it twice, in 1984 as well as in 2005. Roger McGuinn collaborated with Vern Gosdin on Parton’s 1984 version.
Throughout the years this track has enjoyed an enduring pop-media presence. It has been featured on a several movies and TV shows. For instance, it showed up on the Tom Hanks classic “Forrest Gump” (1994). It also appears on the first episode of another nostalgic show, “The Wonder Years” (in 1988, as well as a couple more episodes afterwards). This classic also made an appearance on “The Simpsons” in 1991.