[1964:] What is right and what is wrong in this world? The most truthful answer I know comes from Ecclesiastes [Buch der Prediger 3, 1-9], that hardboiled section of the Bible ('Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.'). (Seeger, Rhymney 114)
[1985:] In [Ecclesiastes], Pete's favorite chapter of the Bible, a worldly preacher traveled with his gospel, preaching rectitude:
Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savor:
so doth a little folly him that is in reputation for wisdom and honor.
In the Sixties, this message seemed especially out of place; people wanted a little folly. Pete understood this better now [...] but he demanded moral consistency in an inconsistent time. (Dunaway, Seeger 273f)
[1993:] About 1959 I got a letter from my publisher complaining, "Pete, can't you write another song like Goodnight Irene? I can't sell or promote these protest songs." I angrily tore off a note to him, "You better find another songwriter. This is the only kind of song I know how to write." I leafed through my pocket notebook to some verses I'd copied down a year before, verses by a bearded fellow with sandals, a tough minded fellow called Ecclesiastes who lived in Judea, like 3,000 years ago. I added one line ("a time of peace, I swear it's not too late"), omitted a few lines, and repeated the first two lines as a chorus, plus one new word repeated three times. Taped it. Mailed it next morning.
Got a letter from the publisher two days later, "Wonderful; just what I hoped for." Myself, I was delighted by the version of the Byrds: all those electric guitars. Like clanging bells. [...] I wonder what Ecclesiastes looked like. I bet he was short, wiry, irascible. I thought no one knew his/her real name - last year I read it was "Koholeth".
[On] closer examination I realized that both tunes [this and Bells of Rhymney] owed more than a little to that ancient mother-of-tunes, Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, starting on the first note of the scale, going up to the fifth note and working their way back down to the first note again. (Seeger, Flowers 172f)