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Chart Hit With The Oldest Lyrics

In 1959 Pete Seeger’s publisher wrote to him complaining about all the protest songs that were popular at the time and asked him to write something more “conventional”. Seeger was put out by the publisher’s request, but he had been working on adapting Chapter 3 of the Book Of Ecclesiastes from the King James version of the bible. Ecclesiastes is traditionally ascribed to King Solomon.
  1. To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
  2. A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
  3. A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
  4. A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
  5. A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
  6. A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
  7. A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
  8. A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
Seeger added two lines, “Turn! Turn! Turn!” to give the idea that ideas and opportunities are always changing, and “I swear it’s not to late” at the end to complete it as a peace anthem. Aprt from those two additions, the lyrics are entirely biblical. Although he completed the music and the adaption that year, it was not until 1962 that Seeger personally recorded it.

In 1963 Roger McGuinn of The Byrds arranged the song for the folk singer Judy Collins. During The Byrds 1965 tour, McGuinn’s future wife, Dolores, requested the tune on the Byrds’ tour bus. The rendition that McGuinn dutifully played came out sounding, not like a folk song, but more like a rock/folk hybrid, perfectly in keeping with The Byrds’ then current immersion in the folk-rock genre. McGuinn explained "It was a standard folk song by that time, but I played it and it came out rock ‘n’ roll because that’s what I was programmed to do like a computer. I couldn’t do it as it was traditionally. It came out with that samba beat, and we thought it would make a good single."

The Byrd's version reached the top of the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 listing and number 26 in the United Kingdom.

Lyrical credit for this hit therefore must go to King Solomon, making it the hit with the oldest lyrics.

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