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

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, 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, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

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.

RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #53: Mr. Tambourine Man by Bob Dylan (+) Covered by The Byrds.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, 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, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #53: Mr. Tambourine Man by Bob Dylan (+) Covered by The Byrds.

Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me,

I’m not sleepy and there’s no place that I’m going to.

Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me,

In the jingle jangle morning I’ll come following you.”

It is difficult to simply speak those lines that open the song, “Mr. Tambourine Man” by Bob Dylan. If you are anything like me, you fall into a pattern of sing/speak, whereby you say those words in a cadence similar to what Dylan used in the original song. The meaning behind the song remains somewhat mysterious. Many people were convinced that Dylan was referring to drugs and their effects and that “Mr. Tambourine Man” was either a dealer or the drug, itself. But, no greater an authority that Bob Dylan, himself, denied that this was true. He stated that “Mr. Tambourine Man” is really a form of muse that all true artists require in order to remain creative and to move forward with their work. But, Dylan was a regular marijuana user at the time so, not many people take him at his word.

Like many of Dylan’s songs from the 1960s, it is difficult to convey how groundbreaking they actually were. By this time, Dylan was seeking to stretch his musical wings and become more that simply a Folk singer. His foray into the world of Rock n’ Roll included writing songs that were longer, more mysterious when it came to the content of his lyrics and that definitely read equally well as poetry. One of the signs that Bob Dylan’s music was built for a broader audience could be seen in how other artists reached out to cover his work. The first great cover of a Dylan song being, “All Along the WatchTower” by Jimi Hendrix. The next great and important cover was of this song, “Mr. Tambourine Man” by The Byrds. Ironically enough, both versions of “Mr. Tambourine Man”…..Dylan’s acoustic track, along with The Byrds, electric version, were inducted into the Song Category at The Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame, along with both artists, as well.

The Byrds’ version is an important milestone in music history because of the fact that it was recorded using electric guitars; specifically, Roger McGuinn’s twelve-string Rickenbacker guitar. The effect of using electric guitars was to give the song a jangly sound. This jangly sound helped define The Byrds and ushered in a new musical genre called, “Folk Rock”. When the band was rehearsing the song before recording it, they invited Bob Dylan to come over and listen to it in the studio. His reaction was one of delight. It is said that when the song was finished, he clapped his hands and proclaimed that this new version was one that people could dance to and, as such, he gave The Byrds his seal of approval. With their harmonies, their jangle-rock sound and their Beatles/Stones haircuts, many people viewed The Byrds as being the next big thing as the 1960s drew to a close. Unfortunately, the band broke up soon thereafter due to internal tensions and creative differences. But, in their wake, they have left behind a superlative remake of a beautiful song…..just as they did with “Turn, Turn, Turn”, as well.

Ironically enough, even though The Byrds self-destructed, Bob Dylan remains active even too this day. And, sixty years later, “Mr. Tambourine Man” still sounds fresh and relevant and unlike almost anything that passes for music today. If you listen carefully to the lyrics and the way in which Dylan sings them, you will see the foundation of Hip Hop beginning to take shape. A great many of his songs were built on a foundation of rhyming and of rhythm. This musical structure is very apparent in “Mr. Tambourine Man”……..

Take me on a trip upon your magic, swirling ship

My senses have been stripped.

My hands can’t feel to grip.

My toes too numb to step.

Waiting only for my boot heels to be wandering.”

So, without further delay, here is the master, Bob Dylan, and his apprentices, The Byrds, with their own uniquely powerful and important versions of this great song, “Mr. Tambourine Man”. Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “Mr. Tambourine Man” by Bob Dylan, can be found here.

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

The link to the video for the song, “Mr. Tambourine Man” 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.