♫ Turn! Turn! Turn! ♫

Folk singer/activist Pete Seeger wrote this one in the late 1950s, though it was not recorded until 1962 by the Limeliters, and didn’t become a hit until 1965 when The Byrds brought it out of folk circles with their electrified version.  In the interim, it was recorded by Seeger himself in 1962 on his album The Bitter And The Sweet.

According to Seeger …

“I got a letter from my publisher, and he says, ‘Pete, I can’t sell these protest songs you write.’ And I was angry. I sat down with a tape recorder and said, ‘I can’t write the kind of songs you want. You gotta go to somebody else. This is the only kind of song I know how to write.’ I pulled out this slip of paper in my pocket and improvised a melody to it in fifteen minutes. And I sent it to him. And I got a letter from him the next week that said, ‘Wonderful! Just what I’m looking for.’ Within two months he’d sold it to the Limelighters and then to the Byrds. I liked the Byrds’ record very much, incidentally. All those clanging, steel guitars – they sound like bells.”

Judy Collins also put out a version in 1963 on her album Judy Collins #3, and released it as a single in 1969.  And country/western singer Dolly Parton covered it in 1984 and again in 2005.

Ms. Collins’ version is very different from The Byrds’, and so I present both here …

Turn! Turn! Turn!
The Byrds

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven

A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven

A time to build up, a time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones, a time to gather stones together

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven

A time of love, a time of hate
A time of war, a time of peace
A time you may embrace, a time to refrain from embracing

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven

A time to gain, a time to lose
A time to rend, a time to sew
A time for love, a time for hate
A time for peace, I swear it’s not too late

Songwriters: Peter Seeger
Turn! Turn! Turn! lyrics © T.R.O. Inc.

26 thoughts on “♫ Turn! Turn! Turn! ♫

  1. Jill, it is a great song no matter who sings. Seeger wrote an excellent song to divinely inspired lyrics. I am partial to The Byrds’ version, but the song gets new legs when an emphatic and wonderful voice sings it. Keith

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Seeger did Turn Turn Turn late in his set at the Winnipeg Folk Festival, but always before he closed the festival with Good Night Irene. There is no choice for me, all three versions were wonderful, and all completely different. Without mentioning anyone else, and there were way more, Seeger gave us rebellion folk, the Byrds gave us folk rock, and Judy gave us classical folk. Each deserves their own award.

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    • You’re right … they are all different, and each is good in its own way! Good Night Irene? I remember that as being a real oldie, like from my parents’ generation, unless I’m thinking of a different song. I didn’t know he sang it. Were you at that Winnipeg Folk Festival?

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      • I was at many of the festivals during the time he came there. Pete always closed the Festival, and, yes, the Leadbelly song from your parents generation, was the finale. He would start it, and any performers still present would wander up on stage, and it would last for a good half-hour. We in the crowd would gather up our belongings and head back to the parking lot, or to where public buses would pick us up to take us home. We would all be singing along with the performers, so the music carried over a vast area. The atmosphere was almost magical, but with an added flavour of sadness. Back to normal life until the next festival.

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  3. I’m going to go out on a limb here and excuse me for a minute whilst I start sawing it off! Yet again, no offense to Judy Collins or her many adoring fans, but please…The Byrds gave this song its very soul! Seeger’s lyrics spoke to the times. The Byrds first album “Mr.Tambourine Man” released in June of 1965 and the album “Turn! Turn! Turn!” that was released that December showcased their great harmony and McGuinn’s fantastic playing of the twelve-string Rickenbacker guitar. They were quite popular in the mid 60’s, though lost steam by the 70’s. I am going to finish sawing that branch by adding, The Byrds version far outshines Pete Seeger’s version! One might think that you agree, as you did not include Pete Seeger singing his own song. Thank-you for another winner!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • No, you’re not on a limb … even David, who is a big Judy Collins fan, said he prefers The Byrds’ version, so stop sawing that limb and come on back down here! You know what? I didn’t even listen to the Pete Seeger version! I might like it, but The Byrds is the one I knew best, and I just never even thought to listen to Seeger’s. Thank YOU!

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  4. What a great way to pass some of my Saturday afternoon than with the Byrds who did so well with Bob Dylan songs and now prove they can work with Pete Seeger too. They were fantastic as this song shows. I love Judy Collins and even in a studio that lifts her fantastic voice enough to make the angels weep I confess I still prefer the Byrds version of this, though should the Byrds come back with Both Sides Now I will always prefer her version.
    Cwtch

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