The Byrds

Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is a Season)

Composed by Pete Seeger / Traditional

Song Review by

Pete Seeger is more of a song collector than a songwriter, and his occasional compositions usually are steeped in folk tradition even when they are not actually adapted from other sources. Sometime in the 1950s, Seeger took several verses from The Bible's Book of Ecclesiastes (chapter 3, verses 1-8), adapted them slightly, added the folky refrain "Turn, turn, turn," and set them to a simple melody he later self-deprecatingly compared to "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star." He sent the resulting song to his publisher and no doubt performed it now and then, but he didn't record it until July 1962, at the Bitter End nightclub in New York City -- the performance was released by Columbia Records that November as the LP The Bitter and the Sweet. Even before then, however, it had been released by the Limeliters on their album Folk Matinee under the title "To Everything There Is a Season (Turn! Turn! Turn!)." The Limeliters' backup guitarist was Jim (later Roger) McGuinn, who remembered the song a little over a year later when he was backing Judy Collins at the sessions for her third album, Judy Collins #3 (1964) and made a lovely arrangement of the song that altered the melody slightly at the words "turn, turn, turn," to make the tone more upbeat, and gave the song a lilting rhythm. A year after that, McGuinn was in the Byrds, the seminal folk-rock group who had topped the charts in the summer of 1965 with Bob Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man," but then stumbled with its follow-up, Dylan's "All I Really Want to Do," which barely made the Top 40 due to a competing version by Cher. As the group cast about for a third single, McGuinn suggested "Turn! Turn! Turn!," which had a lyrical message that couldn't have been more timely as the Vietnam War continued to heat up. (Seeger had added to the Biblical phrase "a time for peace" the words "I swear it's not too late.") McGuinn adapted his Judy Collins arrangement with a modified samba rhythm, played his guitar part on his 12-string Rickenbacker, and added the Byrds' harmonies; the result was magical. (Even Seeger, no great fan of rock & roll, liked it.) "Turn! Turn! Turn!" shot up the charts, becoming the Byrds' second number one and the biggest hit of their career by December 1965. Already a folk standard by then, the song was recorded by many other performers in the wake of the Byrds' version, but the hit recording tended to depress the proliferation of other covers over the long term (as well as obscure the earlier versions), so that, while "Turn! Turn! Turn!" remains a familiar song, it is closely linked with McGuinn's masterful arrangement and the Byrds' unforgettable recording.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Turn! Turn! Turn! 1965 BMG / BMG / Sony Music
The Byrds' Greatest Hits 1967 Columbia 3:43
No Image 1972
Various Artists
Columbia
No Image 1973 CBS Records
Original Singles, Vol. 1 (1965-1967) 1980 Columbia 3:37
The Golden Era of Pop Music, Vol. 2 1988
Various Artists
CBS Records 3:39
Tour of Duty 1990
Various Artists
Magnum
20 Essential Tracks from the Boxed Set: 1965-1990 1991 Columbia/Legacy 3:54
No Image 1992 Sony Music Distribution
Best of 60's & 70's Rock: Protest Rock 1992
Various Artists
Priority Records
Supergroups 1994
Various Artists
Stardust Records
Forrest Gump 1994
Original Soundtrack
Epic 3:54
Born to Be Wild, Vol. 1 [Madacy] 1995
Various Artists
Madacy 3:43
The Best of Folk Rock 1995
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution 3:38
Definitive Collection 1995 Columbia
I Love Rock & Roll: Hits of the '60s, Vol. 2 1996
Various Artists
Priority Records 3:54
Time-Life's Treasury of Folk Music, V. 2 1996
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 3:38
Expanded Edition Album Sampler, Vol. 2 1997 Columbia 3:49
Beat Goes On [Rivie're] 1998
Various Artists
Riviere International Records 3:54
Full Flyte (1965-1970) 1998 Raven 3:55
Ultimate Byrds 1998 Legacy / Columbia/Legacy 3:51
The 60's, Vol. 3 1999
Various Artists
Platinum Disc 3:55
Sony Music 100 Years: Soundtrack for a Century 1999
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution 3:35
No Image 1999
Various Artists
Universal Distribution 3:41
Greatest Hits of the 60's [Platinum] 2000
Various Artists
Platinum Disc
Spirit of the 60's [Madacy 2000] 2000
Various Artists
Madacy 3:43
Spirit of the 60's: Folk Rock, Vol. 1 2000
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 3:52
No Image 2000
Various Artists
Realm Records 3:51
Rock Hits of the 60's 2001
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution 3:51
Simply the Best of the 60's [2001 Single Disc] 2001
Various Artists
Sony Music
Dick Clark's #1's: 50's to 70's "When AM Radio Was King" 2001
Various Artists
Rhino 3:51
A Year in Your Life: 1965, Vol. 2 2001
Various Artists
Definitive 3:36
The Graduate: Music from the Broadway Comedy 2002
Broadway Cast Recording
Columbia / Columbia/Legacy 3:35
Paramount Pictures 90th Anniversary: Memorable Songs 2002
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution 3:54
No Image 2002 Timeless 3:51
Rock Classics: The Heavyweights 2002
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution 3:45
The Folk Years: Blowin' in the Wind 2002
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 3:55
Written by... 2003
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution 3:42
The Essential Byrds 2003 Columbia / Legacy 3:51
The Folk Years [Box Set] 2003
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 3:55
The '60s Rock Experience 2005
Various Artists
Shout! Factory 3:34
The Sixties: Harmony 2006
Various Artists
American Beat Records 3:51
Very Best of the Byrds [2006] 2006 Columbia / Sony Music Distribution 3:51
There Is a Season 2006 Legacy / Columbia/Legacy / Sony BMG
#1 Super 60's Hits 2006
Various Artists
Madacy 3:36
The Classic Sixties Collection: 1965 2006
Various Artists
Universal Distribution
Four Decades of Folk Rock 2007
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 3:53
Flower Power [Time Life Box] 2007
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 3:55
Flower Power: Groovin' [Time Life #2] 2007
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 3:55
Original Album Classics [2008] 2008 Columbia 3:53
Playlist: The Very Best of the Byrds 2008 Playlist 3:53
Original Hits: 60s Pop 2010
Various Artists
EMI / EMI Music Distribution 3:44
Singers & Songwriters: Troubadours 2010
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 3:54
Singers & Songwriters [Time-Life Box Set] 2011
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 3:54
The Ultimate Collection: 60s - 100 Hits 2011
Various Artists
Ultimate / Ultimate Collection 3:54
The Complete Columbia Albums Collection 2011 Columbia / Legacy / Sony Music / Sony Music Entertainment 3:53
'60s Music Revolution 2012
Various Artists
Time / Time/Life Music 3:55
'60s Music Revolution: Let the Sunshine In 2012
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 3:55
The  60s: The Byrds 2014 BMG / Sony Music Entertainment 3:52
Eight Miles High: The Best Of The Byrds Camden / Camden International 3:51
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