Buffalo Springfield

For What It's Worth

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 2:37
No Image 1968
Various Artists
Atlantic 2:37
Retrospective: The Best of Buffalo Springfield 1969 Atco 3:00
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 2:35
Zeppelin Classics 1992
Various Artists
Jasrac 2:39
Masterpieces 1993
Various Artists
WEA 2:41
Forrest Gump 1994
Original Soundtrack
Epic 2:38
Sunny Afternoons [Polygram] 1995
Various Artists
Polygram 2:36
Buffalo Springfield [Box Set] 2001 Atco / Rhino 2:43
Rhino Hi-Five: Buffalo Springfield, Vol. 1 2005 Rhino 2:34
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
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
Carry On 2013 Atlantic 2:38
No Image 2013 Rhino
The Vietnam War: A Film by Ken Burns & Lynn Novick - The Soundtrack 2017
Various Artists
Universal 2:35
What's That Sound? Complete Albums Collection 2018 Atlantic / Rhino 2:40
'60s: The Collection
Various Artists
Rhino / Warner Music 2:40
100 Greatest Acoustic Songs
Various Artists
Rhino 2:40
100 Greatest Breakfast Songs
Various Artists
Rhino 2:36
100 Greatest Chilled Pop
Various Artists
Rhino 2:40
100 Greatest Classic Rock Songs
Various Artists
Rhino 2:37
100 Greatest Rock
Various Artists
Rhino / Warner Music 2:37
No Image
Various Artists
Rhino
100 Greatest Summer Songs
Various Artists
Rhino 2:39
American Classics [Rhino]
Various Artists
Rhino
No Image
Various Artists
Strategic Marketing / Universal Music 2:37
Born to Rock: 60 Tracks of Classic Rock
Various Artists
Rhino / Warner Music 2:38
No Image Atlantic
Mellow Pop
Various Artists
Rhino 2:40
Rock Classics: The Collection
Various Artists
Rhino
Rock [Rhino]
Various Artists
Rhino 2:36
Sixties [Rhino]
Various Artists
Rhino 2:36
The Best Ever Acoustic
Various Artists
Rhino 2:37