Now it is time to take out our Bibles and follow along with the singer as we read from the Book of Ecclesiastes. The song “Turn! Turn! Turn!” Is taken almost word for word from Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. This makes “Turn! Turn! Turn!” the song with the oldest lyrics of any song that has ever been written.
Although the lyrics are stolen from the Bible, someone had to put the melody to the words and that was folk legend Pete Seeger. He wrote the song in the late Fifties and the first to record it was The Limeliters in 1962. The song was called then “To Everything There is a Season.” Seeger also recorded it himself.
Jim McGuinn (later known as Roger McGuinn) was playing in the backup band for the Limeliters and so, knew the song. He also played it on one of Judy Collins albums, Judy Collins 3. In 1965, the Byrds decided to adapt it to their style. One day on the bus, McGuinn started playing around with the song and giving it a rock sound. The group joined in with David Crosby adding his bit to the song. Soon, they had something they felt they could record. The single was released on October 1, 1965 with Gene Clark’s song “She Don’t Care About Time” on the B-side. Gene, as you might recall was an original member of The Byrds.
This was the second number one for The Byrds and it would be their last. It was about this time that Gene Clark discovered he had a fear of flying and quit the band, leaving The Byrds with just four members. Then David Crosby and McGuinn had a dispute over the music and Crosby left the band. By 1968, the only original member was Roger McGuinn (who had changed his name by this time.) The Byrds limped along with various members until 1972, when McGuinn decided to call it quits.
The Byrds only had seven Top 40 records and only charted from 1965 until 1967, but they are known as one of the founders of rock-folk. Of the original members, Gene Clark is gone, having died on May 24, 1991 of natural causes. Mike Clarke has also died, on December 19, 1993 of liver failure after a life of hard drinking. The other three are still alive as of this writing. Roger McGuinn is 75, David Crosby is 76 and Chris Hillman is 73.
“Turn! Turn! Turn!” entered the pop charts on November 6, 1965 and spent three weeks at number one.