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

I love to feature a Byrd’s song because it’s time to break out the Rickenbacker 12 string guitar and hear the magical jangle and ringing tone.

This was written by Pete Seeger, an influential folk singer and activist. He recorded a demo of the song around 1961, and included a live version on his 1962 album The Bitter And The Sweet with just voice and guitar.

The lyrics were taken from a passage from the book of Ecclesiastes (3:1-8) in The Bible. They were rearranged and paired with Seeger’s music to make the song.

When The Byrds started working on this song, McGuinn and David Crosby devised a new arrangement of Seeger’s original, but it took the band over 50 tries to get the sound right. The song was released on the Turn, Turn, Turn album in 1965. The album peaked at #17 in the Billboard Album Charts and #11 in the UK.

The song peaked at #1 in the Billboard 100, #26 in the UK, and #3 in Canada in 1965.

Ecclesiastes (3:1-8)

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, and a time to pluck up 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.

From Songfacts

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.” (this appears in Zollo’s book Songwriters On Songwriting)

A folk trio called The Limeliters released an upbeat, banjo-based version in 1962.

Before he recorded this song with The Byrds, Jim McGuinn (who later went by Roger) played acoustic 12-string guitar on Judy Collins’ 1963 version, which appears on her album Judy Collins #3. He also worked up the arrangement with Collins.

Judy Collins’ version was released as a single in 1969 when it was included on her album Recollections. It reached #69 in the US, the only Hot 100 appearance of the song besides The Byrds’ rendition.

Dolly Parton covered this on her 1984 album of cover songs The Great Pretender, and again in 2005 on Those Were The Days

Roger McGuinn teamed up with country artist Vern Gosdin, who was once a member of Chris Hillman’s bluegrass band The Hillman and one half of The Gosdin Brothers (who occasionally opened for The Byrds), for a cover of this song on Gosdin’s 1984 album There Is A Season. McGuinn played the same 12-string Rickenbacker that he used on The Byrds’ recording of the song. In 1994 a previously unreleased version that was originally remixed in 1984 for an anticipated single was included on the The Truly Great Hits Of Vern Gosdin

This was used in the movie Forrest Gump as Forrest says goodbye to Jenny, who is leaving for Berkeley.

I love Roger’s glasses…I did track down a pair of them in the 80s…I then lost them and bought some off of Ebay…they are not easy to find.

Turn Turn Turn

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

Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

28 thoughts on “Byrds – Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is a Season)”

  1. Ecclesiastes is mostly about the pain and frustration engendered by observing and meditating on the distortions and inequities pervading the world, the uselessness of human deeds, and the limitations of wisdom and righteousness. Solomon was the author of Ecclesiastes and this book presents us a naturalistic vision of life, one that sees life through distinctively human eyes, but ultimately recognizes the rule and reign of God in the world.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I had no idea that Vern Gosdin had some ties to The Byrds and this song. His songs that I know are very much country, but I love them. As for Turn, Turn, Turn, it’s simply one of the most wonderful of that era, imo.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Actually Max, I may have put you wrong re Peter Paul and Mary. I think I was thinking of “The Seekers”. All was a long time ago – so I’m possibly getting a bit doddery.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Great song. The Byrd’s version will be the version everyone remembers. In the 60s, we had a band in Dallas called ” The Nova’s” and they played mostly Byrd’s tunes, and did a fine job of it. Their lead guitar used a Rick 12 also. Our band did a few of their songs, but we were not as hardcore folk-rock as The Nova’s. In my lifetime as a player, around 55 years now, I have owned 2 – Rick 12s, and I can say from personal experience they are the hardest guitar to keep in tune and for me, I could do maybe two songs before my left hand cramped up. 12 string guitars are not natural for musicians. The way McGuinn got that jingly sound was by using a compressor to equal the strings and extend the tone, and then it was ran through the board and mixed. He also used a Fender amp, not a Vox. I finally got close using his method, but not quite there. There are a few box’s on the market that do a good job of mimicking the McGuinn sound on a 6 string guitar. The documentary The Wrecking Crew goes into detail about that song and his technique.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I wanted an electric 12 string around 10 years ago but I didn’t want to pay that price…I almost did it but I found a Danelectro 12 string that was customized…it’s actually a great sounding guitar and doesn’t feel like many of them do. Who ever had it replaced the metal nut with bone and changed out pickups. I do play with compression to get that sound…it comes really close…they are fun guitars. I paid around 450 in 2010… I don’t play professionally so I didn’t want to pay $2000 for a Rick.

      You grew up when I wish I could have…some great music in the 60s.

      I’ve seen a little of the Wrecking Crew…I need to watch all of it.


  4. That 12-string rick! What a cool, distinctive sound. That particular guitar is a beauty – the closeup at the start of the solo shows the beautiful grain of the wood….did you see it? Think the other was a 6119? Oh and great track too, of course

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can listen to it now…the fever died down a little and I’m not as tired of it. I could hear that intro on an endless loop


Leave a Reply to badfinger20 (Max) Cancel reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: