There’s not a lot written or known about what inspired “Time of the Season” but almost immediately upon its release in 1969, the song has become a signifier of “the sixties.” There are many television shows and films that use “Time of the Season” as background during a “sixties” or “Vietnam” flashback. Before the placard announcing “1969” appears on the screen, we already know from the bass riff that we are going back in time almost forty years. This song also seems to be the earliest use of the now popular phrase “who’s your daddy?” a phrased used to punctuate dominance or victory.
“What’s your name/Who’s your daddy?” is a wonderfully menacing opening line. It instantly produces the image of an unsupervised minor who is lost and seeking the help of an unscrupulous adult. It is, perhaps, an enormously vivid example of why we are told “don’t talk to strangers” as we are growing up. (See also “Hey little girl is your daddy home?” from “I’m on Fire” by Bruce Springsteen.) There is something very sexy about the use of the word “daddy” here as opposed to “father” or “parent.” It’s as if we are witnessing the passing of a girl’s custody from her own father to that of her first boyfriend/husband. And then there’s the fact that “daddy” has long been a slang expression for either “pimp” or “john.”
“Is he rich like me?” is another provocative line. The narrator of the song is establishing his power. Whoever he is speaking to is becoming a pawn in his hand. She is not simply being “asked out” or “hit on”, she is being asked for her owner’s name so that a business transaction can be brokered. Plus there is something plutonian about the narrator’s admitted wealth. Is he Satan, himself? Or just a big spending john? The listener is then asked if said daddy has “taken any time to show you what you need to live.” What does the narrator mean by “live”? Is the narrator talking about the way sexuality opens the senses and makes one feel truly “alive” or is he talking about making a “living” by selling one’s sexual favors.
The bass riff is also seductively disturbing. It is the same riff as “Stand by Me” by Ben E. King but with a twist. At the end of the fourth and final note, a female can be heard exhaling as if in a state of postponed ecstasy. Or is she opening her mouth to say “ah” at the order of her doctor?
But perhaps the most disturbing aspect of this song is what’s not there. One doesn’t really get the sense from these lyrics what is so attractive about this girl who is being seduced and, therefore, why she is even being seduced. And the seducer isn’t giving the young lady any reason to give into his seduction. There are no promises of love, a relationship or even momentary pleasure. It’s just that “time of the season”. It’s that simple. This girl has ripened and now she must take a lover whether she wants one or not.