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You Were On My Mind

by

We Five



Songfacts®:  You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.

This was written by Sylvia Tyson of the Canadian folk duo Ian & Sylvia. They recorded it for their 1964 album Northern Journey.
We Five was an American Folk-Rock quintet. When they recorded this, Sylvia Tyson rewrote some of the lyrics, taking out references to getting drunk. This was done to help get airplay for the song.
In 1966, British singer Crispian St. Peters hit #2 UK with his version. (thanks, Edward Pearce - Ashford, Kent, England, for all above)
There is sometimes confusion as to whether the vocalist in this song is male or female. In fact, both answers are correct, as in the opening verses, a female and male member of the group are singing in unison. There is also confusion as to who that female singer is. All references state that the female vocalist in We Five was Beverly Bivens. However, some sources say there was a previous vocalist in the group who sang "You Were On My Mind" and left the group before it became a hit. Outside of this folk-rock excursion, most of the tracks on We Five's two albums sound much more Broadway than they do rock, and the female vocalist on most of these tracks (assumed to be Bivens) sings in a completely different style from the one used on their hit single. It's a mystery that has yet to be fully solved. (thanks, Mike - Youngstown, OH)
We Five
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Comments (24):

On June 25th 1967, Crispian St. Peters' covered version of "You Were On My Mind" entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #79; and on July 16th, 1967 it peaked at #36 (for 2 weeks) and spent 6 weeks on the Top 100...
The following week it was at #49 and then fell completely off the chart...
His biggest hit was "The Pied Piper", it reached #4 in 1966.
- Barry, Sauquoit, NY
On December 2nd, 1965 the We Five performed "You Were On My Mind" on the ABC-TV program 'Shindig!'...
Five months earlier on July 24th it entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart; eventually it peaked at #3 and spent 15 weeks on the Top 100...
And on September 4th, 1965 it reached #1 (for 5 weeks) on Billboard's Adult Contemporary Tracks chart...
R.I.P. Jimmy O'Neill (Shindig's host, 1940 - 2013).
- Barry, Sauquoit, NY
This is a great song from '65. My brother Jim bought the single & I loved it too. I was 15 years old at the time. I always had a fascination with the ending guitar sound. Thanks to everyone for all the background info on this hit and the We Five.
- Elmer H, westville, OK
Update: Jerry Burgan confirms that the only female voices on any We Five recording are those of Beverly Bivens and Debbie Burgan
- J, Seattle, WA
The voice made my 16 year old spine tingle, and affected my musical taste ever after.
Now, I have a mystery to submit that really seems far fetched to me but here it is: There's a 2009 obituary published in several places online including findagrave.com for a Debra K. Rowe of Daytona Beach, FL. It states that she "was a member of the 1960's band "We Five"." There's a somewhat intriguing photo of the plaque on her gravestone. There are also comments on the youtube videos of "You were on my mind" by someone claiming to be her son and claiming that the voice on the studio recording is hers. I suspect this is a case of family mythmaking. I can't seem to find contact information for any of the living principals who were there, to confirm or debunk this.
- J, Seattle, WA
Sylvia's maiden name was Fricker (no relation to Jonathan Winters' irreverent granny character, Maude Frickert ;-). In 1965, when I started to take up folk music, someone told me that was her name, and I assumed she didn't change it in marrying Ian Tyson. That seems not to be the case, as Wiki has her last name as Tyson. It doesn't say whether she reverted to her maiden name after the divorce in, or soon after, 1974. *** Anyway, this song features one of the knockout female voices of recorded 60's folk/pop, a few others being Cass Elliot of the Mamas & Papas, Judith Durham of the Seekers, Elaine "Spanky" MacFarlane of Spanky & Our Gang, Maddy Prior of Steeleye Span ("All around My Hat"--OK, 1975, but...), and, bending the genre a bit, Janis Joplin. Very heady company, indeed!
- Fred, Laurel, MD
In the mid 1970's I lived in Vail, Colorado...it was a great place then...and many bands came through inbetween recording sessions from LA...one of them was the "We Five"....but they were "reassembled" when they came to Vail. One of the bandmembers had been killed in a terrible auto accident, they told me, and so they regrouped with one of the members and his wife...Debbie Bergen,
who famously sang "you were on my mind" with her husband playing bass guitar with 2 other band members. Debbie was fabulous, and they continued the "We Five" band singing their signiture song and carrying on the legacy of the original We Five Group with this remaining 3 members and Debbie.
In the early 1980's I moved to Los Angeles to pursue my own successful acting and singing career and I was invited by the Bergens to visit them....I saw them perform again in front of enthusiastic crowds in Hollywood and around Southern California....always singing their signiture song "You Were on my Mind"...That is the "rest of the story" you may not have known about the We Five/The Bergens !
- donna, Long Beach, IN
For years, I thought that this was performed by the Everly Brothers. Sounded just like them, though a little more 60ish.
- Brian, Altamonte Springs, FL
Does anyone know if this song's original recording was in Stereo?
- Garth, Villa Park, IL
I was from this time. I was like 13 and really into the culture already. Notice this original group disbanded in 1967. Alot of that had to do with the fact being in San Francisco a huge melting pot with many groups like Jefferson Airplane, The Grateful Dead, and others going harder rock and folksy groups were going out. Also these kids did not do drugs But the song was awesome and remains so for me today. It was timing. But you can add the other things and see the quick rise we five had but between the culture gravitating toward harder rock, a country desperate for and end to chaos after Nov 22, Vietnam going to a new level - with all this who's going to notice a nice buch of kids that were just that - nice. They helped to give me my own love of music that I still have.
- Mark, Miami, FL
Ahhh! when I woke up this morning you were on my mind......and now I can't get them off my mind!
That's the term my younger brother used for me as I played that record thin in the 60's.
No, Beverly is alive and well and living in Berkeley. I use to write them faithfully once a week and even send Bev birthday cards. She was my idol when I was just 15, actually younger as I was in junior high when that song came out.
To me, and for my money there's simply no one better!! That PBS special was Jerry's wife, Debbie. I wished I'd have been old enough to go see them in concert before the break-up, but I couldn't drive then, and I was just too young in my mom's eyes. It sometimes makes me sad to listen to them when I know they're no longer around, but that beautiful voice never seems far away. The first group I ever "fell in love" with and stayed in love!!!
I, too, heard the rumor of an accident with Bev, but it was just a rumor.
- Del, Dallas, TX
Take a look at http://www.wefive.net/ for band info. The singer on PBS appears to be Debbie Burgan.
- Jimmy, Grove Hill, AL
Beverly Bivens definitely sang "You were on my mind" and there's a video on YouTube (Hollywood palace - where they are introduced by Fred Astaire) where you can get a sense of the power of her voice. If she hadn't disappeared into the Avant-Garde, she would have been a big star.
- steve, brooklyn, NY
Yes, Beverly Bivens did not die. That was just a rumor that spread around back then. She was still singing up through 1999 and I just saw her on PBS reunited with We Five. Same face. Not much voice left but it was good to hear the song again. It was a great song!
- Rob, Central, FL
Seems to me that the stylistic midpoint between Ian & Sylvia's folk version and We Five's folk-rock version is one I've heard once or twice by (I believe) Matthews Southern Comfort. I have to assume We Five had heard it before they came up with their arrangement (unless of course the MSC version followed, rather than preceded, WF's). As for Crispian St. Peters's version, I don't think I've heard it. Does anyone know anything specific about how WF came up with the arrangement? That is, was it a group effort, or did one of them work it out? (Marilyn in NYC, do you know, by any chance?)
- George, Ewing, NJ
Beverly Bivens *was* the female singer on "You Were On My Mind." She also sang all the other songs on their albums; there was no other female singer in the We Five before their break up in 1967. My sister and I were friends with We Five when the recordings were made. Also, the song may have first "taken off" on KHJ in LA, but Dick Biondi, a DJ at KRLA, was the first to play it, after much persuasion on our part. He had said he had listened to it and didn't think it would be a hit. I think this is the only time in his long career that he was proved wrong. :-)
- Marilyn, New York, NY
Donald is correct. The confusion over the auto accident may be related to a serious crash involving Sweetwater lead singer Nancy Nevins. Sweetwater was the first act on stage at Woodstock. Four months later, Nevins was in a serious wreck in LA, was in a coma and spent 12 years recovering. She is alive and well, and is back singing.

Sadly, Bev Bivens retired her incredible voice with far too few tracks for us to enjoy. But by all accounts, she too is alive and well...
- Chris, Stouffville, Canada
Beverly Bivens was not killed in an automobile accident. The band broke up shortly before their second album was released, and she effectively dropped out of pop music. She married a jazz musician whose band did the sound track for Peanuts specials. They had a son in 1971, Yoshi Marshall. She did some singing for her husband's band and commercials jingles, etc., but seems to have kept herself out of the spotlight since that one hit single.
- Donald, Miami, FL
The lead singer, who performed with the We Five at my college in the 60s, was killed in an auto accident in 1965. That's the reason she's only on the first issues of "You Were On My Mind." I never knew her name, but I guess it's Beverly Bivens.
Wicked Wahine, Aiea, HI
- Wicked Wahine, Aiea, HI
Michael Stewart, the younger brother of John Stewart was in this group. John wrote "Daydream Believer" for the Monkees and was a member of the Kingston Trio. Michael played guitar on John's "Phoenix Concert" album
- Dave, Scottsdale, AZ
Just a minor correction. Ian and Sylvia were a Canadian Folk singing duet. Ian Tyson's "Four Strong Winds" is a classic folk song and if you see the DVD "Heart of Gold" Neil Young calls "Four Strong Winds" the most beautiful song ever written. He performed it on "The Last Waltz" the Bands last concert but it was left on the cutting room floor.
- Alan, Grande Prairie, Alberta, Canada
The We Five did have one other Top 40 hit. It was the follow up to this song, it was called Let's Get Together, it peaked at #31 in 1965.
- silverado, Green Bay, WI
This is one of the many American songs that was
remade by an Italian group in the 60's by the Italian composer Mogol who also worked with the late singer/songwriter Lucio Battisti who is now a musical legend in Italy. Mogol and Battisti took on the very difficult task of translating
song lyrics (timing, rhyming and using words that
make sense isn't easy!)
In 1966 the popular Italian group Equipe 84
(written by Frickes and Mogol) recorded "Ho in
Mente Te" (You're on my mind)
Susan-New York City and Italy
- Susy, New York, NY
The name of the group was derived from "We Seven," the first book about the Mercury astronauts. They were a California group, and the song first took off on LA radio station KHJ. It was not uncommon that summer to be stuck in traffic on the way to the beach and hear that song played at full blast from dozens of cars, making it the first "road party" song. People would pound out the last few drumbeats on their doors, and I watched one guy dent the door on his Ford Comet doing this. If you remember the Comet, you know how hard he had to be pounding. Their first album was carried by this song, but while several other songs were respectable (and pulled off for 45s), none was anything like this title track. This was their only hit before they broke up in 1967.
- Keith, SLC, UT
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