The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #120: Turn, Turn, Turn by Pete Seeger (RS)

This list of songs is inspired by lists published by radio station KEXP-FM from Seattle in 2010, as well as the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part I will faithfully countdown from their lists, starting at Song and going until I reach Song . When you see the song title listed as something like: Song (KEXP)….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. Song XXX (RS) means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: Song (KTOM), it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In any case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, just so everyone is aware, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Here is the story behind today’s song. Enjoy.

RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #120: Turn, Turn, Turn by Pete Seeger.

“Turn, Turn, Turn” by Pete Seeger is one of the most popular and recognizable songs of the 1960s. It is one of the songs most responsible for launching the Folk-Rock Movement. For many people, “Turn, Turn, Turn” is a song made famous by The Byrds but, in reality, The Byrds were actually the third or fourth band/artist to cover this song that was written by Pete Seeger. So, as we go forward in our post, I will talk about Pete Seeger (who is one of the legendary figures in the world of Folk music and who wrote many songs that you will know), I will talk about the song, itself and, finally, I will end with a short bit about The Byrds and others who covered this classic song, as well. Here we go……

Pete Seeger was a political activist, as well as, being a prolific songwriter. In fact, for most of his career, he used songwriting as a tool to popularize his politic beliefs and further his causes. His career began prior to the Second World War, when he gained experience helping American farmers to organize during the Dust Bowl years. Many of his songs back then took on a labour-oriented theme which, in turn, led to anti-war songs when those in power were debating joining the war or practising isolationist policies. Eventually, Seeger joined the Communist Party of America which, during the 1950s, saw him become officially blacklisted during the McCarthy witch hunts known as the “UnAmerican Activities Committee”. But, throughout his long career as a rabble rouser against the Establishment and for the underdog, Seeger wrote many Folks songs that rank as being among the best of that genre such as, “Turn, Turn, Turn”, “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?”, “If I Had a Hammer”, “We Shall Overcome” and the labour rally classic, “Solidarity Forever”.

“Turn, Turn, Turn” was written in the early 1960s. It was written by Seeger in response to a challenge from his agent to create something “more marketable”. The song, “Turn, Turn, Turn” is, as many of you may know, taken directly from the Bible. It is based upon the teaching of King Solomon, as found in the Book of Ecclesiastes. I am not a Biblical scholar so, if any of you know more about this than I, feel free to correct what I am about to say and/or to add on to it. The Book of Ecclesiastes is known as one of the Books of the Bible that deal with Wisdom and Reflection. In this case, it is King Solomon reflecting on the lessons he has learned in his life. The essence of his musings is that Life is filled with a myriad of moments; both good and bad, stressful and easy, heartbreaking and love-filled and so, it is important to live life to the fullest under God because, regardless of one’s station in Life, Death awaits us all. In Pete Seeger’s capable hands, “Turn, Turn, Turn” came to be a song used as a rallying cry against the Vietnam War and that the idea of War being necessary because of political beliefs was wrong.

The final twist to this story lay in how the song was covered by other artists. Pete Seeger released this song under his own name first. It really didn’t have that much of an impact on the charts but, many other artists recognized the potential of the song and the beauty of the lyrics. The first to have success with it, after Seeger, was Judy Collins. Her version stayed faithful to Seeger’s, in terms of performance style. They even collaborated on the song in duet form. The Judy Collins version of “Turn, Turn, Turn” did well. However, the next group to ask for permission to cover the song is the one that most of us know and love and that was The Byrds.

The Byrds were one of the most influential groups of the 1960s. Along with Bob Dylan, The Byrds helped usher in the age of the electric guitar. Lead guitarist, Roger McGuinn, used a twelve-string Rickenbacker guitar, which helped give The Byrds much of their distinctive sound. Pete Seeger states that The Byrds version of his song is now the de-facto version and that, even he sings the song “their way” because it is the best way. For Seeger to say that is really something because it was he, as much as anyone else, who lead the opposition to Bob Dylan, when Dylan “went electric”, claiming that no one could properly hear the lyrics anymore because of the loudness of the guitars. But somehow, McGuinn’s Rickenbacker guitar soothed Seeger’s temper and helped pave the way for other stellar classic songs such as “Mr. Tambourine Man”, which helped define the sound of an entire decade.

There is beautiful language in the Bible. “Turn, Turn, Turn” is proof of that. It is, also, proof that we, as Humans, have made a living out of taking the words in the Bible and using them to support our own beliefs about the world around us. In the case of this song, those beliefs turned out to be about peacefulness which, if one must publicize one’s beliefs then, creating songs about Peace is a good way to go.

So, without further delay, here is “Turn, Turn, Turn” written by Pete Seeger and performed by Judy Collins and by The Byrds. Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “Turn, Turn, Turn” by Pete Seeger, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Pete Seeger, can be found here.

The link to the video for the song, “Turn, Turn, Turn”, as covered by Judy Collins, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Judy Collins, can be found here.

The link to the video for the song, “Turn, Turn, Turn”, as covered by The Byrds, can be found here.

The link to the official website for The Byrds, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Rolling Stone Magazine, can be found here.

The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #161: Send In The Clowns by Judy Collins (KTOM)

This list of songs is inspired by lists published by radio station KEXP-FM from Seattle in 2010, as well as the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part I will faithfully countdown from their lists, starting at Song and going until I reach Song . When you see the song title listed as something like: Song (KEXP)….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. Song XXX (RS) means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: Song (KTOM), it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In any case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, just so everyone is aware, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Here is the story behind today’s song. Enjoy.

KTOM: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #161: Send in the Clowns by Judy Collins.

In all of our talk about which songs constitute the greatest songs of all-time, there has been a woeful omission of an entire category of music…..and that omission has been concerning Broadway show tunes. Some of the most memorable and inspiring songs every recorded came from atop the stages of “The Great White Way”, along with music halls, community theatres and school gymnasiums all over the world. I was reminded of this gaping hole in our countdown with the recent passing of Broadway Titan, Stephen Sondheim. If you follow musicals at all then, chances are reasonably good that, somewhere along the way, you have been entertained and moved by his work. If you do not follow the Broadway scene, I am still confident that you have heard of musicals such as “West Side Story” (which was based upon the play, “Romeo and Juliet”), “Sweeney Todd”, “Into the Woods” (which is based upon memorable fairy tale characters), “Sunday in the Park with George” (which is based upon the famous pointillistic painting by George Seurat), “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” and, “A Little Night Music” (from which our song of the day, “Send in the Clowns” is from). Stephen Sondheim won 8 Tony Awards, 8 Grammy Awards, an Academy Award, the Pulitzer Prize and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015. Sondheim was 91 years old when he passed away peacefully.

I don’t remember much about my parents when it came to their musical tastes. But, one thing that I remember is that they had several albums or original cast recordings of musicals such as “South Pacific”, “Camelot”, “The Sound of Music” and “The Music Man”, just to name a few. I grew up listening to songs such as “76 Trombones” and “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Out of My Hair” and many others. All of the songs had big, orchestral sounds…all sung by the people we viewed as the stars of the day such as Richard Burton, Vanessa Redgrave, Mary Martin and so on. Being Canadian, the first musical performance I saw live was, “Anne of Green Gables”. In high school, we put on “Guys and Dolls”, along with “Oklahoma”. So, in many ways, musical storytelling has been a part of my life since forever so, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that Leah is growing up to love musicals such as “Hamilton”, “Momma Mia” and “Come From Away”, too.

In the last half century, many of the musicals we love have been touched, in some way by Stephen Sondheim; whether as a lyricist, a composer, a producer or as a mentor to modern-day stars such as Lin Manual Miranda (to whom Sondheim gave advice on “Hamilton” before Miranda ever began production), as well as, the recently deceased Jonathon Larson (known for producing “Rent”, along with the Netflix show, “Tick, Tick….Boom!”).

Sondheim apprenticed under the direction of the legendary Oscar Hammerstein and was writing musicals in his early twenties (when I was still learning to properly do my own laundry). He was never afraid to tackle emotional subject matter nor, to score his plays with non-traditional songs or orchestral structures. But, regardless of how he did what he did, a Stephen Sondheim musical was always something special. It is not surprising that he is most remembered for the song, “Send in the Clowns”, as that is one of the very few songs of his that was “Pop-worthy”. It made stars out of singers such as Judy Collins, Joni Mitchell and many others. That “Send in the Clowns” was one of the few popular songs of his is not a criticism at all. In fact, it should give you some indication of how innovative his material was and how perfectly suited it was to his medium of choice, the stage.

In any event, Broadway has lost a champion who always believed in the power of storytelling through song. Consequently, it was not surprising that he was eulogized in song, out on Broadway in NYC by as many musical stars as were available to attend. *I shall post that video in the comments below. For now, here is Judy Collins with one of the songs that comprise the Gold Standard for musicals, “Send in the Clowns” from the Stephen Sondheim musical, “A Little Night Music”. And with that, the spotlight dims, the curtains draw to a close and Mr. Sondheim exits the stage forever.

The link to the video for the song, “Send In The Clowns”, as performed by Judy Collins, can be found here.

The link to the video for the song, “Send In The Clowns”, as sung on Broadway in NYC by those wishing to pay their respects on the occasion of Stephen Sondheim’s passing, can be found here.

The official website for Stephen Sondheim, can be found here.

The official website for Judy Collins, can be found here.

The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #52: Both Sides, Now by Joni Mitchell/Judy Collins (RS)

This list of songs is inspired by lists published by radio station KEXP-FM from Seattle in 2010, as well as the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part I will faithfully countdown from their lists, starting at Song and going until I reach Song . When you see the song title listed as something like: Song (KEXP)….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. Song XXX (RS) means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: Song (KTOM), it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In any case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, just so everyone is aware, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Here is the story behind today’s song. Enjoy.

RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #52: Both Sides, Now by Joni Mitchell/Judy Collins.

As mentioned in a previous post *(which you can read here), Joni Mitchell had gotten off to a somewhat difficult start to her life. She had moved away from her family. She had tried to start a music career for herself in Toronto and failed. She had become pregnant and had given her child up for adoption. Finally, she had moved to the US to marry a man named Chuck Mitchell; a marriage that quickly ended in divorce. So, Joni Mitchell found herself sitting on an airplane, reading a book by Saul Bellow about giving up one’s traditional life and starting anew, far from where you had been. In Joni’s case, she was heading to California, eventually settling in Laurel Canyon. But, at the time she was reading the book, she came to a passage about clouds that gave her pause. As she absorbed Bellow’s words about clouds and the images they possess and the meaning that may have for the observer, Mitchell gazed out of her airplane window and saw the most beautiful cloud formations, too. She was immediately inspired to write down the myriad of thoughts that were forming in her mind. Those thoughts ended up taking the form of a song called, “Both Sides, Now”.

When Joni Mitchell settled into her new home in California, she wasn’t the star that she would become. Instead, Mitchell was just another young singer with a passion for music and a few original songs in a notebook. However, once ensconced in her new home, she began travelling to local coffee houses and cafes and soon met a man named Al Kooper, who was in the music business. Mitchell told him she had a notebook of songs in her home and if he wanted to hear them, she would sing for him. He agreed. One of the songs her heard was, “Both Sides, Now”. Immediately, Kooper recognized the potential of the song. He knew Judy Collins and asked Mitchell if she wanted him to contact Collins, on her behalf. Mitchell was said to have been very excited. So, Kooper got Collins on the phone and had Joni Mitchell sing her “Both Sides, Now”. Like Cooper, Judy Collins loved the song the first time she heard it, too. Collins thought it was a beautifully written song and that it captured the world as seen through a woman’s eyes better than anything she had ever heard before. Mitchell agreed to let Judy Collins record the song. It was her first major song sale. Under Judy Collins skilled watch, her rendition of “Both Sides, Now” raced up the charts and became one of her signature tunes. In doing so, it opened the door for Joni Mitchell to enter the music business in a formal way. From that point on, Mitchell began making many industry connections, which lead to an offer to record an album. Her second album ended up being called, “Clouds”, based upon the song, “Both Sides, Now”. Joni recorded her own version of the song for that album and it scored a chart success as well. Several decades later, Joni Mitchell re-recorded “Both Sides, Now” for a retrospective album. Many people; especially, many women, like her second version better because, as they say, she sings those lyrics with greater wisdom and weariness from having lived a woman’s life lo, those many years.

As time passed, Joni Mitchell went on to become the legendary performer that we have all come to know her as. However, during that time, she has been often asked about how she got her start and how Judy Collins singing her song helped jumpstart her career. With each interview, Joni Mitchell has grown more bitter and resentful of the attention given to Judy Collins. Mitchell has even gone so far as to publicly claim that she does not even like Collins’ version of the song and never has. When Judy Collins was asked for her reaction to Joni Mitchell’s change of tune, she could only express her sadness, saying that it is always it is always disappointing when a song’s original writer proclaims a dislike for your interpretation of their song. But, aside from that, Judy Collins has not backed down and has left Joni Mitchell to stew in her own bitterness.

That the two principal performers in this story have chosen to remain estranged is too bad because it detracts from the beauty of the message contained within the lyrics of this song. “Both Sides, Now” is a lovely song. Its’ lyrics are wispy and ethereal, evoking images of lives lived, choices made, with regrets and affirmations being collected along the way. It is not surprising that “Both Sides, Now” has been covered by countless singers and has been played in numerous movies and television series. It is a song about Life’s journey, as told by a woman. That the point of view is from the female perspective means everything. It is a song with a message that continues to resonate almost sixty years after it was first written by a young woman on a plane, above the clouds, in search of a new life in a far away land.

Without further delay, here is “Both Sides, Now” by both, Joni Mitchell and Judy Collins. Enjoy both versions. They are equally terrific.

The link to the video for the song, “Both Sides, Now” by Joni Mitchell, can be found here.

The link tot he official website for Joni Mitchell, can be found here.

The link to the video for the song, “Both Sides Now” by Judy Collins, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Judy Collins, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Rolling Stone Magazine, can be found here.

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