For What It's Worth (Buffalo Springfield song)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
"For What It's Worth"
Single by Buffalo Springfield
from the album Buffalo Springfield
B-side "Do I Have to Come Right Out and Say It?"
Released January 9, 1967
Format 7" single
Recorded December 5, 1966 at Gold Star Recording Studio, Hollywood
Genre Folk rock[1]
Length 2:37
Label Atco
Writer(s) Stephen Stills
Buffalo Springfield singles chronology
"For What It's Worth"

"For What It's Worth" is a song written by Stephen Stills. It was performed by Buffalo Springfield, recorded on December 5, 1966, and released as a single in January 1967; it was later added to the re-release of their first album, Buffalo Springfield. The single peaked at number seven on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. This song is currently ranked #63 on Rolling Stone's list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time as well as the eighth best song of 1967 by Acclaimed Music.[2]


Although "For What It's Worth" is often mistaken as an anti-war song, Stephen Stills was inspired to write the track because of the "Sunset Strip riots" in November 1966. The trouble, which started during the early stages of the psychedelic era, was in the same year Buffalo Springfield had become the house band at the Whisky a Go Go on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles.[3]

It was within this period that local residents and businesses had become increasingly annoyed by late-night traffic congestion caused by crowds of young people going to clubs and music venues along the Strip. In response they lobbied the city to pass local ordinances that stopped loitering and enforced a strict curfew on the Strip after 10pm. However young music fans felt the new laws were an infringement of their civil rights.[4]

On Saturday, November 12, 1966, fliers were distributed on Sunset Strip inviting people to join demonstrations later that day. Several of Los Angeles' rock radio stations also announced that a rally would be held outside the Pandora's Box club on the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Crescent Heights.[4] That evening as many as 1,000 young demonstrators, including celebrities like Jack Nicholson and Peter Fonda (who was handcuffed by police), gathered to protest against the enforcement of the curfew laws. Although the rallies began peacefully, trouble eventually broke out among the protesters and police. The unrest continued the next night and periodically throughout the rest of November and December forcing some clubs to shut down within weeks.[4]

Against the background of these civil disturbances, Stills recorded the song on December 5, 1966.


The song quickly became a well-known protest song.[5] The song's title appears nowhere in its lyrics; it is more easily remembered by the first line of chorus: "Stop, children, what's that sound?"

Stills said in an interview that the name of the song came about when he presented it to the record company executive Ahmet Ertegun who signed Buffalo Springfield to the Atlantic Records-owned ATCO label. He said: "I have this song here, for what it's worth, if you want it." Another producer, Charlie Greene, claims that Stills first said the above sentence to him, but credits Ahmet Ertegun with subtitling the single "Stop, Hey What's That Sound" so that the song would be more easily recognized.[6]

In 2006, when interviewed on Tom Kent's radio show "Into the '70s", Stephen Stills pointed out that many people think "For What It's Worth" is about the Kent State Shootings (1970), even though the song predates that event by over three years.[7] Neil Young, Stills' bandmate in both Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, would later write "Ohio", in response to the events at Kent State.

The song was played (without Neil Young's presence) at Buffalo Springfield's induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.[8]

Covers and use in media[edit]

The British band ART also covered this song in 1967 on the Island Records album Supernatural Fairytales ILP967 and single WIP6019 "What's that Sound" b/w "Rome take away Three". ART would eventually morph into Spooky Tooth. "For What It's Worth" has been covered, sampled, and referenced in numerous musical performances and other media. The three most notable are Cher, The Muppet Show , and Public Enemy. Cher's 1969 cover did not enter the Billboard Hot 100, but received decent reviews, with Allmusic retrospectively calling her version "mature [and] forceful."[9] The Muppet Show episode 221 partly rewrote the song to be an Anti-hunting song. The song is performed by forest animal Muppets, who are periodically interrupted by rampaging human game hunter Muppets.[10] Public Enemy sampled "For What It's Worth", for their 1998 song "He Got Game".[11]

Other uses of "For What It's Worth" include:

  • Nathan Morris of Boyz II Men covered the song for the Kazaam soundtrack entitled "Wishes."
  • The Staple Singers covered "For What It's Worth" in 1967 on the Epic Records label.
  • tobyMac sampled "For What It's Worth" in his song "What's Going Down" on his 2001 recording Momentum.
  • Canadian progressive rock band Rush included their version of this song on their 2004 EP Feedback.
  • American Idol runner-up Crystal Bowersox recorded a version and released it on her 2010 CD Farmer's Daughter.
  • Kid Rock covered the song in 2013, in 2005 by Ozzy Osbourne on his album Under Cover, and by Queensryche on the album Take Cover.
  • In movies, "For What It's Worth" plays during the opening credits of Lord of War, and was also used in Coming Home (1978), Forrest Gump and Tropic Thunder.
  • It was also used for a Miller beer commercial. It has been noted that though Buffalo Springfield member Neil Young never allows his work to be used for commercials, he did not write this song. He has publicly criticized those who do, however, in his song "This Note's for You."
  • It was also used in The West Wing's special episode at the beginning of Season 3, being used just before and during the final title sequence.
  • Oxfordshire band The Candyskins covered the song on their debut album, Space I'm In, on Geffen records and was released as a single.
  • It was played over the end credits in the HBO original series The Brink in an episode entitled "I'll Never Be Batman," which was the 4th episode of the 1st season, originally airing July 12, 2015.


External links[edit]