Study Guide

For What It's Worth Introduction

For What It's Worth Introduction

In a Nutshell

"For What It's Worth" is one of the most recognizable songs from the 1960s and 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
Year1967
LabelATCO
Writer(s)Stephen Stills
Producer(s)Charles Greene, Brian Stone
Musician(s)Stephen Stills (guitar, lead vocals), Richie Furay (guitar, vocals), Dewey Martin (drums, vocals), Bruce Palmer (bass), Neil Young (guitar)
Learn to playGuitar
AlbumBuffalo Springfield

Music Video

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Influences on Buffalo Springfield

Steven Stills' musical influences are as diverse as his childhood homes. Born in a military family, he grew up in Florida, Louisiana, Costa Rica, and Panama. The blues, blue grass, and Latin music all contributed to his musical development.

Neil Young has cited Elvis Presley, Fats Domino, Ronnie Self, the Fleetwoods, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Johnny Cash as significant influences.

Influenced by Buffalo Springfield

Buffalo Springfield's most direct influence was on the bands that its members formed or joined after the group disbanded in 1968: Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Crazy Horse, Poco, and Loggins and Messina (Jim Messina joined the band on bass after Canadian Bruce Palmer was deported because of a drug conviction). 

In addition, Buffalo Springfield's distinctive country-rock fusion influenced a wave of others including Bob Dylan, the Byrds, and the Flying Burrito Brothers.

For What It's Worth Resources

Books

John Einarson with Richie Furay, For What It's Worth: The Story of Buffalo Springfield (2004)
In this book, Einarson updates a story he first told in 1997. Richie Furay, Buffalo Springfield guitarist, provides an insiders' description of the band's tumultuous two-year existence.

Albums

Buffalo Springfield (1966)
A solid debut album that ranges from British-invasion pop to rock to the sort of country-rock that band members will develop further in their next bands (Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Poco). Stills' "For What It's Worth" (added to the album after its initial release) is the most familiar track, but Young's contributions, such as "Nowadays Clancy Can't Even Sing," are significant.

Buffalo Springfield Again (1967)
Even though the group was already falling apart, this is their best album. Again, Stills contributed the album's biggest hit, "Bluebird." But Neil Young was turning into Neil Young with songs like "Mr. Soul" and "Broken Arrow."

Images

Sunset Strip Riot
The protest/riot that inspired "For What It's Worth."

Buffalo Springfield
Stephen Stills, Dewey Martin, Bruce Palmer, Richie Furay, and Neil Young.

Whiskey A Go Go
The LA club where Buffalo Springfield got its start.

The First Buffalo Springfield
The company that inspired the band's name.

Websites

Official Stephen Stills Website
Stephen Stills' official website includes a brief biography, discography, and links, and there's some great music playing in the background.

Buffalo Springfield on IMDB
Their songs, primarily "For What It's Worth," have shown up in so many movies and documentaries that their IMDB entry is pretty sizeable.

Video & Audio

"For What It's Worth" on the Smothers Brothers
You may never be able to take this song seriously again.