Buffalo Springfield

For What It's Worth

Composed by Stephen Stills

Song Review by

That fact that this song is one of the most representative sounds of the 1960s -- even by sheer fact of just the first guitar note and half a dozen drum beats -- speaks volumes, and is in itself an unbelievable accomplishment. "For What It's Worth" actually does this, but there's a lot more to it than that. Written by Stephen Stills during the aftermath of the infamous Sunset Strip riots of 1966-1967, this is the song that put Buffalo Springfield on the national map. Although commonly labeled as a protest song, it really is more in the folk tradition of singing news and makes the "protest" label embarrassingly limited. Stills had previously experienced very real street politics while spending his high school years in Costa Rica, and he used his insight very, very effectively on this composition -- easily one of the finest of the period, bar none. The song is built around a very tough but understated acoustic guitar riff that is extremely bluesy, then gives way to a rather stock chord change on the memorable chorus ("Stop, hey, what's that sound"). Stills manages to tie these elements together without sounding derivative. The lyric is a success because it doesn't beat the listener over the head with a message. Although the song has not really been successfully covered, Public Enemy sampled Springfield's version on the 1998 hit "He Got Game," illustrating the timeless quality of the Springfield original. On the CSN&Y tour of 2000, they -- and they alone -- have been the only people who could "cover" this song effectively.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Buffalo Springfield 1966 Atco / Elektra / Rhino 2:41
No Image 1968
Various Artists
Atlantic 2:37
Retrospective: The Best of Buffalo Springfield 1969 Atco 2:40
No Image 1970 Atlantic 2:37
Buffalo Springfield [Collection] 1973 WEA 3:00
Atlantic Hit Singles 1958-1977 1988
Various Artists
Atlantic 2:39
The Wonder Years: Music From the Emmy Award-Winning Show & Its Era 1989
Original Tv Soundtrack
Atlantic 2:33
Zeppelin Classics 1992
Various Artists
Jasrac 2:39
Masterpieces 1993
Various Artists
WEA 2:41
Forrest Gump 1994
Original Soundtrack
Sunny Afternoons [Polygram] 1995
Various Artists
Polygram 2:36
Absolute Sixties 2000
Various Artists
Eva 2:38
Buffalo Springfield [Box Set] 2001 Atlantic / Rhino / Rhino Atlantic 2:38
Singers and Songwriters: The Folk Years 2003
Various Artists
Time/Life Music
California Classic Rock [DVD] 2005
Various Artists
Standing Room Only
Rhino Hi-Five: Buffalo Springfield, Vol. 1 2005 Atlantic / Rhino Atlantic 2:41
Very Best of Heartbeat 2006
Various Artists
EMI/Virgin TV
Monterey International Pop Festival [Razor & Tie] 2007
Various Artists
Razor & Tie 2:44
40 Jahre Flower Power 2007
Various Artists
G&H / Ganser & Hanke Media 2:39
Legends Informercial Set 2007
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 2:42
Four Decades of Folk Rock 2007
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 2:37
100 Hits: 60s 2007
Various Artists
DMG / DMG TV 2:37
The Best of Buffalo Springfield: Retrospective 2007 Atlantic / Rhino 2:40
No Image 2008
Various Artists
Polystar (Japan) / Universal
No Image 2008
Various Artists
Sony BMG 2:36
No Image 2008
Various Artists
WEA 2:41
Singers & Songwriters: Classics 2010
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 2:39
Singers & Songwriters [Time-Life Box Set] 2011
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 2:39
Classic Rock: The Collection 2012
Various Artists
Rhino 2:35
Latest & Greatest Acoustic Songs 2013
Various Artists
USM / USM Media
40 Ans: Les Nocturnes RTL Georges Lang 2013
Various Artists
Rhino 2:36
No Image 2013 Rhino 2:41
No Image 2014
Original Soundtrack
Sony Music
Magic Bus 2015
Various Artists
Universal Music TV 2:37
The Best Ever Time to Relax 2015
Various Artists
Rhino
'60s: The Collection
Various Artists
Rhino / Warner Music 2:40
100 Hits: 60s [2015]
Various Artists
100 Hits
60s Hits [Crimson]
Various Artists
Crimson / Crimson Productions
American Classics [Rhino]
Various Artists
Rhino 2:41
American Highway
Various Artists
Rhino / WMTV 2:36
No Image
Various Artists
Rhino Atlantic 2:37
No Image
Various Artists
Strategic Marketing / Universal Music 2:37
Born to Rock: 60 Tracks of Classic Rock
Various Artists
Rhino 2:38
It's the 60's!
Various Artists
Rhino 2:36
No Image
Various Artists
2:42
No Image
Various Artists
Ganser & Hanke Media 2:38
Simply Sixties
Various Artists
Simply
The Best Ever Acoustic
Various Artists
Rhino 2:37
The Sixties Album: The Album of the Decade
Various Artists
Rhino / WMTV 2:33
Ultimate '60s Pop Classics
Various Artists
Rhino
blue highlight denotes editor's pick