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For What It's Worth

For What It's Worth


by Buffalo Springfield

For What It's Worth Introduction

In a Nutshell

"For What It's Worth" is one of the most recognizable songs from the 1960s. It's still used today in countless TV shows, movie trailers, and feature films to set the scene for anything happening in that era. If you’re confused by the title (which doesn't appear in the lyrics), this is the song that goes, "Stop, hey, what's that sound? Everybody look what's going down." You know the one.

That advice struck a chord with the young people who spent the late 1960s protesting the Vietnam War and other social injustices. Many thought that the song was written as a Vietnam protest song, or as a reaction to the shootings at Kent State (even though the song was released three years prior to the shootings), and indeed the song was appropriated for those causes. But the real inspiration behind the song was the first of the Sunset Strip riots in Los Angeles in 1966, an event that hit close to home for Buffalo Springfield, who were the house band at the Whiskey a Go Go on Sunset Boulevard at the time. Despite their original inspiration (and the fact that the band was only together for about two years), Buffalo Springfield and “For What It’s Worth” have become synonymous with the injustice and political turbulence of the 60s, and their mark on music is still felt strongly today.

About the Song

ArtistBuffalo Springfield Musician(s)Stephen Stills (guitar, lead vocals), Richie Furay (guitar, vocals), Dewey Martin (drums, vocals), Bruce Palmer (bass), Neil Young (guitar)
AlbumBuffalo Springfield
Writer(s)Stephen Stills
Producer(s)Charles Greene, Brian Stone
Learn to play: http://tabs.ultimate-guitar.com/b/buffalo_springfield/for_what_its_worth_ver3_tab.htm
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Shmoop Connections

Explore the ways this song connects with the world and with other topics on Shmoop
"For What It's Worth" became one of the anthems of the 1960s. Young people embraced it because it spoke to their fears and resonated with their suspicion that a generational battle was ahead. Written three years before the shootings at Kent State University, the song was a cryptic oracle of the violence to come.

Long after the band broke up, the song continues to be used for political purposes. Socially outspoken hip hop group Public Enemy sampled “For What It’s Worth” in their 1998 song “He Got Game.”

Political implications aside, the song became Buffalo Springfield's biggest hit and proof that the LA quintet was one of Rock and Roll's most influential and innovative bands. Members of the band would go on to later form Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young, Poco, and Loggins and Messina.

On the Charts

"For What It's Worth" reached #7 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1967, and a cover of the song by Stevie Nicks reached #25 on the Adult Contemporary chart in 2011.

The song was named #63 on Rolling Stone's list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

Buffalo Springfield was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997, and two members of the group have been inducted multiple times: Neil Young was inducted for his solo work in 1995, and Stephen Stills was inducted for his work with Crosby, Stills & Nash on the same night as his induction for Buffalo Springfield (he was the first person ever to be inducted twice on the same night).

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