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For What Its Worth
Song

For What Its Worth

Buffalo Springfield
Album:

Song Meaning by For What It's Worth by Buffalo Springfield


A song that Stephen Stills wrote and was recorded by his band, Buffalo Springfield on December 5, 1966, and it was made available as a single by Atco Records in 1966. In the spring of 1967, it reached its highest position on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, at number 7.


Though "For What It's Worth" is frequently regarded as an anti-war song, Stephen Stills was actually inspired to write the song by the November 1966 Sunset Strip curfew riots in Los Angeles, which were a series of early counterculture clashes between police and young people on Hollywood, California's Sunset Strip. This was the same year that Buffalo Springfield had moved into the Whisky a Go Go as the house band.


The late-night traffic congestion created by young people heading to clubs and music venues along the Strip had become a source of annoyance for local homes and businesses. As a result, they pushed Los Angeles County to enact local laws against loitering and imposed a stringent curfew on the Strip after ten o'clock at night. But the new laws, in the eyes of the youthful music enthusiasts, violated their civil rights.


Flyers urging people to join demonstrations later that day were distributed on the Sunset Strip on Saturday, November 12, 1966. A rally was also announced by a number of Los Angeles's rock radio stations outside the Pandora's Box club, which is located on the intersection of Sunset Boulevard and Crescent Heights. Up to a thousand teenage protestors, including future stars like Jack Nicholson and Peter Fonda (who was detained by the police), assembled that evening to voice their opposition to the curfew's implementation. The demonstrations started out quietly, but ultimately unrest developed.


The disturbances persisted the following evening and on occasion for the remainder of November and December, resulting in the closure of several clubs in a matter of weeks. On December 5, 1966, Stills recorded "For What It's Worth" against the backdrop of these civic unrest.


Lyrics of For What It's Worth by Buffalo Springfield


There's something happening here

But what it is ain't exactly clear

There's a man with a gun over there

Telling me I got to beware

 

I think it's time we stop

Children, what's that sound?

Everybody look - what's going down?

 

There's battle lines being drawn

Nobody's right if everybody's wrong

Young people speaking' their minds

Getting so much resistance from behind

 

It's time we stop

Hey, what's that sound?

Everybody look - what's going down?

 

What a field day for the heat

A thousand people in the street

Singing songs and carrying signs

Mostly saying, "hooray for our side"

 

It's time we stop

Hey, what's that sound?

Everybody look - what's going down?

 

Paranoia strikes deep

Into your life it will creep

It starts when you're always afraid

Step out of line, the man come and take you away

 

We better stop

Hey, what's that sound?

Everybody look - what's going down?

 

We better stop

Hey, what's that sound?

Everybody look - what's going down?

 

We better stop

Now, what's that sound?

Everybody look - what's going down?

 

We better stop

Children, what's that sound?

Everybody look - what's going down?

Release Date

1967

Songwriter/s

Stephen Stills

Producer/s

Charles Greene, Brian Stone

Label/s

Atco

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