For What It's Worth (Buffalo Springfield song)

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"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]


The song was inspired by an event that took place during the early stages of the psychedelic era in November 1966, the year in which Buffalo Springfield started playing as the house band at the Whisky a Go Go on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles.[3] According to the Los Angeles Times,[4] annoyed residents and business owners in the district had encouraged the passage of strict (10:00 p.m.) curfew and loitering laws to reduce the traffic congestion resulting from crowds of young club patrons. This was subsequently perceived by young, local rock and roll music fans as an infringement on their civil rights, and on Saturday, November 12, 1966, fliers were distributed along the Strip inviting people to demonstrate later that day.

Hours before the protest one of L.A.'s rock 'n' roll radio stations announced there would be a rally at Pandora's Box, a club at the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Crescent Heights, and cautioned people to tread carefully.[4] The Times reported that as many as 1,000 youthful demonstrators, including such celebrities as Jack Nicholson and Peter Fonda (who was afterward handcuffed by police), erupted in protest against the perceived repressive enforcement of these recently invoked curfew laws.

Although "For What It's Worth" is often mistaken for an anti-war song, Stephen Stills was prompted to write it by the first of the "Sunset Strip riots". The song recorded about three weeks later, 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"
Single by Cher
from the album 3614 Jackson Highway
B-side "(Just Enough To Keep Me) Hanging On"
Released September 1969
Format 7" single
Recorded 1968
Length 2:22
Label Atco
Writer(s) Stephen Stills
Producer(s) Jerry Wexler, Tom Dowd, Arif Mardin
Cher singles chronology
"Yours Until Tomorrow"
"For What It's Worth"
"I Walk on Guilded Splinters"

"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 become a top-40 hit, but received decent reviews, with Allmusic 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.
  • 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.


External links[edit]