Turn! Turn! Turn!

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This article is about the song. For the Byrds album, see Turn! Turn! Turn! (album). For other uses, see Turn! Turn! Turn! (disambiguation).
"Turn! Turn! Turn!"
1965 German picture sleeve
Single by The Byrds
from the album Turn! Turn! Turn!
B-side "She Don't Care About Time"
Released October 1, 1965
Format 7" Single
Recorded September 1, 10, 14–16, 1965, Columbia Studios, Hollywood, California
Genre Folk rock
Length 3:49
Label Columbia
Writer(s) Book of Ecclesiastes, Pete Seeger
Producer(s) Terry Melcher
The Byrds singles chronology
"All I Really Want to Do
"Turn! Turn! Turn!"
"Set You Free This Time"

"Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is a Season)" — often abbreviated to "Turn! Turn! Turn!" — is a song written by Pete Seeger in the late 1950s. The lyrics, except for the title which is repeated throughout the song, and the final verse of the song, are adapted word-for-word from Chapter 3 of the Book of Ecclesiastes, set to music and recorded in 1962. The song was originally released as "To Everything There Is a Season" on The Limeliters' album Folk Matinee and then some months later on Seeger's own The Bitter and the Sweet.[1]

The song became an international hit in late 1965 when it was covered by the American folk rock band The Byrds, bowing at #80 on October 23, 1965, before reaching #1 on the Hot 100 chart on December 4, 1965, #3 in Canada (Nov. 29, 1965), and also peaking at #26 on the UK Singles Chart. In the U.S., the song holds distinction as the #1 hit with the oldest lyrics (Book of Ecclesiastes), theoretically authored by King Solomon.

Lyrics and title[edit]

The lyrics are taken almost verbatim from the Book of Ecclesiastes (late 3rd century BC), as found in the King James Version (1611) of the Bible[2] (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8), though the sequence of the words was rearranged for the song. Ecclesiastes is traditionally ascribed to King Solomon.

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, a time to reap that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

The Biblical text posits there being a time and place for all things: laughter and sorrow, healing and killing, war and peace, and so on. The lines are open to myriad interpretations, but as a song they are commonly performed as a plea for world peace, with an emphasis on the closing line: "a time for peace, I swear it's not too late." This line and the title phrase "Turn! Turn! Turn!" are the only parts of the lyric written by Seeger himself.[1]

The song is notable for being one of a few instances in popular music in which a large portion of scripture is set to music, other examples being The Melodians' "Rivers of Babylon", Sister Janet Mead's "The Lord's Prayer", and U2's "40".

The song was published in illustrated book form by Simon & Schuster in September 2003, with an accompanying CD which contained both Seeger and The Byrds recordings of the song (ISBN 978-0-689-85235-0). Wendy Anderson Halperin created a set of detailed illustrations for each set of opposites which are reminiscent of mandalas. The book also includes the Ecclesiastes text from the King James version of the Bible.

Handwritten lyrics to the song were among the documents donated to New York University by the Communist Party USA in March 2007.[3]

45% of the royalties for the song are donated to the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions because, in Seeger's own words, "[in addition to the music] I did write six words."[4]

Cover versions[edit]

Early folk versions[edit]

The song was first released by the folk group The Limeliters on their 1962 album Folk Matinee, under the title "To Everything There Is a Season".[1][5] The Limeliters' version predated the release of Seeger's own version by several months. One of The Limeliter's backing musicians at this time was Jim McGuinn (aka Roger McGuinn), who would later work with folk singer Judy Collins, rearranging the song for her 1963 album, Judy Collins 3.[1] Collins' recording of the song was retitled as "Turn! Turn! Turn! (to Everything There Is a Season)", a title that would be used intermittently by McGuinn's later band The Byrds, when they released a cover of the song in 1965. In 1963, Marlene Dietrich recorded “Für alles kommt die Zeit (Glaub', Glaub)," Max Colpet’s German translation of the song. Dietrich was backed by Burt Bacharach conducting a studio orchestra, and the song was released as 7” monaural single Barclay Records #10 278 AU. [6][7] Australian folk singer Gary Shearston also recorded a version of the song for his 1964 album Songs of Our Time, under the title "Turn! Turn! Turn! (to Everything There Is a Season)".[8]

The Byrds' version[edit]

"Turn! Turn! Turn!" was the third single by the American folk rock band The Byrds and was released on October 1, 1965, by Columbia Records (see 1965 in music).[9] The song was also included on the band's second album, Turn! Turn! Turn!, which was released on December 6, 1965.[9] The Byrds' single (b/w "She Don't Care About Time") is the most successful recorded version of the song, having reached #1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 charts and #26 on the UK Singles Chart.[10][11] The Byrds' version distinguishes the song as the #1 pop hit with the oldest lyrics, dating back to the Book of Ecclesiastes.[12] Many biblical scholars believe Ecclesiastes 1:1 implies King Solomon as the book's author; thus, if true, giving Solomon (born c. 1011 BC) lyrical credit for a number one hit.

An excerpt from The Byrds' recording of "Turn! Turn! Turn! (to Everything There is a Season)", which provided the band with their second U.S. number 1 single and solidified folk rock as a chart trend.

Problems playing this file? See media help.

The song had first been arranged by The Byrds' lead guitarist Jim McGuinn in a chamber-folk style during sessions for Judy Collins' 1963 album, Judy Collins 3.[13] The idea of reviving the song came to McGuinn during The Byrds' July 1965 tour of the American Midwest, when his future wife, Dolores, requested the tune on the Byrds' tour bus.[14][15] The rendering that McGuinn dutifully played came out sounding not like a folk song but more like a rock/folk hybrid, perfectly in keeping with The Byrds' current status as pioneers of the folk rock genre.[15] McGuinn explained "It was a standard folk song by that time, but I played it and it came out rock 'n' roll because that’s what I was programmed to do like a computer. I couldn’t do it as it was traditionally. It came out with that samba beat, and we thought it would make a good single."[15]

The master recording of the song reputedly took 78 takes, spread over five days of recording, to complete.[16][17] The song's plea for peace and tolerance struck a nerve with the American record buying public as the Vietnam War continued to escalate.[1] The single also solidified folk rock as a chart trend and, like the band's previous hits, continued The Byrds' successful mix of vocal harmony and jangly twelve-string Rickenbacker guitar playing.[1] Pete Seeger expressed his approval of the Byrd's rendering of the song.[18]

During 1965 and 1966, the band performed the song on the television programs Hollywood A Go-Go, Shindig!, The Ed Sullivan Show, and Where the Action Is, as well as in the concert film, The Big T.N.T. Show.[19] Additionally, the song would go on to become a staple of The Byrds' live concert repertoire, until their final disbandment in 1973.[20] The song was also performed live by a reformed line-up of The Byrds featuring Roger McGuinn, David Crosby and Chris Hillman in January 1989.[21] In addition to its appearance on the Turn! Turn! Turn! album, the song also appears on several Byrds' compilations, including The Byrds' Greatest Hits, History of The Byrds, The Original Singles: 1965–1967, Volume 1, The Byrds, 20 Essential Tracks From The Boxed Set: 1965-1990, The Very Best of The Byrds, The Essential Byrds and There Is a Season.[1]

The recording has been featured in numerous movies and TV shows, including 1983's Heart Like a Wheel, 1994's Forrest Gump,[22] and 2002's In America.[23][24] Following Joe Cocker's cover of "With a Little Help from My Friends", the song was the first to play on the first episode of the television series The Wonder Years.[25] It was also used in a Wonder Years parody, during The Simpsons episode, "Three Men and a Comic Book".[26] In 2003, it was used in the closing sequence of the Cold Case episode "A Time to Hate" (Season One, episode 7).

Other cover versions[edit]

The song has been covered by many other artists:

  • Jan & Dean recorded the song for their 1965 album, Folk 'n Roll.
  • The Seekers recorded the song for their 1966 album, Come the Day (also known as Georgy Girl).
  • Welsh folk singer Mary Hopkin's recording of the song was released on the B-side of her "Those Were The Days" single in 1968.[27] She later did a Welsh language version, titled "Tro, Tro, Tro".[citation needed]
  • Singer and pianist Nina Simone recorded two versions of the song, one of which was released on her 1969 album To Love Somebody.
  • East German band Puhdys included some of the song's lyrics in their 1974 song "Wenn ein Mensch lebt": "Jegliches hat seine Zeit, Steine sammeln - Steine zerstreuen, Bäume pflanzen - Bäume abhauen, leben und sterben und Frieden und Streit." ("Everything has its time/season, gathering stones - scattering stones, planting trees - chopping trees, life and death and peace and conflict.")
  • Dolly Parton recorded it in 1984 for her The Great Pretender album, and again in 2005 for Those Were the Days; on Parton's 2005 recording of the song, she was joined by McGuinn, who played guitar and provided harmony voicals.
  • McGuinn, Parton, Radney Foster, Kim Richey, Guy Clark and Kathy Mattea performed the song together in the 2001 movie Our Country.
  • Dave Perkins did a cover of the song, a duet with Steve Taylor, on his 1987 album The Innocence.
  • Christian Alternative singer Nina Llopis (using only her first name) included a version of the song on her 1991 solo debut album, No Shadow of Turning.
  • Michael Knott covered the song on the Lifesavers' 1995 album, A Kiss Of Life.
  • Larry Norman covered the song on his 1998 album Copper Wires.
  • Canadian musician Bruce Cockburn covered the song on the 1998 Pete Seeger tribute album Where Have All the Flowers Gone: The Songs of Pete Seeger.
  • In 1999, the Japanese rock group, Plastic Tree, recorded the song with new lyrics written by the vocalist Ryutaro Arimura; the cover, titled Inori (祈り?, "Prayer"), was recorded for the single "Tremolo".
  • Sister Janet Mead covered the song on her 1999 album A Time to Sing.
  • Politically charged rock band Spy vs Spy covered the song on their 1999 compilation album, Mugshots - The Best Of V.Spy V.Spy.
  • Bob the Ball and the characters sang this song in A Little Curious.
  • Andy Sturmer, lead singer and songwriter of Jellyfish, recorded a cover of the song for an unknown project.
  • In 2000, David Pajo's post-rock band Papa M recorded an extended improvisation based on "Turn! Turn! Turn!", agreeing to continue playing their version of the song in a studio in Portland, Oregon until the tape ran out. Their first and only take, containing no lyrics, is 16 minutes and 22 seconds long, and appears their 2004 release Hole of Burning Alms.
  • Canadian country music singer Jim Witter covered the song for his 2003 album Forgiveness.
  • Aoife Ní Fhearraigh covered it on her 2003 album Turning of the Tide.
  • The trio Wilson Phillips covered the song on their 2004 album California.
  • Adrienne Camp (Adie) recorded the song on September 26, 2006 for her album Don't Wait, released through BEC Recordings.
  • Bruce Springsteen, during the 2006 tour to promote his album We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions, performed the song on occasion. Roger McGuinn subsequently appeared with Springsteen and the E Street Band at their Orlando show in 2008; McGuinn came onstage to perform a short set that included "Turn! Turn! Turn!" and "Mr. Tambourine Man"."Lebanese Tribute To Bruce Springsteen". Retrieved 2008-08-10. 
  • Singer and songwriter Amy Grant closed each show of her 20th Anniversary Lead Me On tour in 2008 with a cover of the song. She also closed her 2013 BigChurchDayOut set with a cover of the song.
  • New-age pianist David Lanz covered the song from his 2008 album Painting the Sun.[28][29]
  • American New Age pianist Lorie Line has recorded the song for her CD Heritage Collection #3.
  • Canadian rock band Red Umbrella covered the song on their album Living and Surviving, released in 2008.
  • Chris de Burgh covered the song on his album Footsteps, a compilation of folk and pop classics from the 1950s, 60s and 70s released in mainland Europe in November 2008 and elsewhere in 2009.
  • Scottish indie-pop group Belle and Sebastian frequently cover the song during live performances.
  • American musician Tori Amos recently covered the song live while touring in 2010. A few verses were included during her performance of her song, "Secret Spell", which can be found on her ninth album, American Doll Posse.[30]
  • Sara Niemietz covered the song, accompanied on acoustic guitar by W. G. Snuffy Walden, at the end of Season 2, Episode 12 of the television series, Under the Dome.
  • Norwegian singer Kari Rueslåtten covered the song as Turn, Turn, Turn and released it as the lead single for her 2015 album To The North. A video was also recorded for the song.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Turn! Turn! Turn! – Byrds Version". Allmusic. Retrieved 2009-07-30. 
  2. ^ "King Solomon's Writings". United Church of God: An International Association. Retrieved 2009-08-21. 
  3. ^ Cohen, Patricia (2007-03-20). "Communist Party USA Gives Its History to N.Y.U.". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-08-02. 
  4. ^ Hasson, Nir (2009-11-08). "Pete Seeger's role in ending Israeli house demolitions". Haaretz. Retrieved 2009-11-08. 
  5. ^ "Folk Matinee review". Allmusic. Retrieved 2009-12-05. 
  6. ^ "Release, Für alles kommt die Zeit (Glaub', glaub')". Discogs. Retrieved 2014-04-19. 
  7. ^ "45.com Record Details, Für alles kommt die Zeit (Glaub', glaub')". Retrieved 2014-04-19. 
  8. ^ "Gary Shearston - Songs of Our Time". garyshearston.com. Retrieved 2011-12-01. 
  9. ^ a b Rogan, Johnny. (1998). The Byrds: Timeless Flight Revisited (2nd ed.). Rogan House. pp. 543–545. ISBN 0-9529540-1-X. 
  10. ^ Whitburn, Joel. (2008). Top Pop Singles 1955-2006. Record Research Inc. p. 130. ISBN 0-89820-172-1. 
  11. ^ Brown, Tony. (2000). The Complete Book of the British Charts. Omnibus Press. p. 130. ISBN 0-7119-7670-8. 
  12. ^ "Fun Facts". Music Madness. Retrieved 2009-12-05. 
  13. ^ Fricke, David. (1996). Turn! Turn! Turn! (1996 CD liner notes). 
  14. ^ Hjort, Christopher. (2008). So You Want To Be A Rock 'n' Roll Star: The Byrds Day-By-Day (1965-1973). Jawbone Press. pp. 47–50. ISBN 1-906002-15-0. 
  15. ^ a b c Rogan, Johnny. (1998). The Byrds: Timeless Flight Revisited (2nd ed.). Rogan House. p. 128. ISBN 0-9529540-1-X. 
  16. ^ Hyde, Bob. (1987). Never Before (1989 CD liner notes). 
  17. ^ Rogan, Johnny. (1998). The Byrds: Timeless Flight Revisited (2nd ed.). Rogan House. p. 619. ISBN 0-9529540-1-X. 
  18. ^ Show 33 - Revolt of the Fat Angel: American musicians respond to the British invaders. [Part 1] : UNT Digital Library
  19. ^ Rogan, Johnny. (1998). The Byrds: Timeless Flight Revisited (2nd ed.). Rogan House. p. 616. ISBN 0-9529540-1-X. 
  20. ^ Rogan, Johnny. (1998). The Byrds: Timeless Flight Revisited (2nd ed.). Rogan House. pp. 591–615. ISBN 0-9529540-1-X. 
  21. ^ "The Byrds Bootleg CD List". Byrds Flyte. Retrieved 2009-07-28. 
  22. ^ "Forrest Gump Soundtrack". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2009-08-22. 
  23. ^ "In America Soundtrack". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2009-08-22. 
  24. ^ "In America Soundtrack review". Allmusic. Retrieved 2009-08-22. 
  25. ^ "The Wonder Years: Music From Each Episode". The Wonder Years fansite. Retrieved 2009-08-22. 
  26. ^ "Mmm...Television: A study of the audience of The Simpsons". The Simpsons Archive. Retrieved 2009-08-22. 
  27. ^ "Apple Records Single Releases". jpgr.co.uk. Retrieved 2009-07-23. 
  28. ^ "Dave Lanz". BiardArtists.com. 
  29. ^ "Painting the Sun overview". Allmusic. 
  30. ^ "Tori Amos - Secret Spell - Live Bonnaroo 2010". Retrieved 2012-04-10. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
"I Hear a Symphony" by The Supremes
Billboard Hot 100 number one single
(The Byrds version)

December 4, 1965 (three weeks)
Succeeded by
"Over and Over" by The Dave Clark Five