The song was composed by McGuinn and Clark in early 1964 at a time when the pair were performing as a duo at The Troubadour and other folk clubs in and around Los Angeles. McGuinn and Clark soon formed a trio with David Crosby and named themselves The Jet Set. The trio began rehearsing at World Pacific Studios under the guidance of their manager Jim Dickson, with Michael Clarke and Chris Hillman joining the group soon afterward. Dickson recorded many of The Jet Set's rehearsal sessions at World Pacific and it was during this time that demos of "You Showed Me" were recorded by the band. The song was soon abandoned by the group, who had now changed their name to The Byrds, and was not included on their debut album for Columbia Records, Mr. Tambourine Man. However, recordings of "You Showed Me" by the band, dating from 1964, were eventually released on the archival albums Preflyte and In the Beginning.
Although the song had originally been an uptempo number, Douglas first demonstrated it for The Turtles' vocalists Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman on a harmonium with a broken bellows, requiring him to play the song slowly. The slower tempo impressed Kaylan and Volman and consequently, The Turtles' recording of the song uses this slower arrangement.
Salt-n-Pepa covered the song on their 1990 album, Blacks' Magic. It was released as the fifth and final single from that album. The track reaching #15 in the UK charts when it was released as a single in 1991.
The American hip hop group De La Soul also sampled The Turtles' recording of "You Showed Me" for their song "Transmitting Live From Mars (Interlude)" on their 1989 album, 3 Feet High and Rising but did not ask permission or clear the sample. The Turtles took litigation against the group, suing them for $1.7 million. An out-of-court settlement was reached for an undisclosed sum . It is said to be the first time that a hip hop act was ever sued for unethical use of another artist's music.