For What It’s Worth
Writer(s): Stephen Stills (see lyrics here)
Released: December 23, 1966
First Charted: January 14, 1967
Peak: 7 US, 7 CB, 8 HR, 1 CL, 9 CN (Click for codes to singles charts.)
Sales (in millions): -- US, -- UK, -- world (includes US + UK)
Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 3.0 radio, 52.6 video, -- streaming
Click on award for more details.
About the Song:
“It feels like an anti-war song, but ‘For What It’s Worth’ was far more domestic than that.” DT “It sprang out of the civil war in miniature that [songwriter Stephen] Stills was witnessing on Los Angeles’s Sunset Strip at the time.” TB It became “a defining sound of the time period, in which inter-generational discord was rampant and youth were attempting to assert themselves against authority figures.” KW It “established Stephen Stills as a spokesman for ‘60s youth.” SJ
Pandora’s Box, a nightclub on L.A.’s Sunset Strip, closed down and there were, as Stills said, “a bunch of kids having a funeral for a bar.” TC “The LAPD decided to run a line-up across the street, like there was some kind of revolution going on.” TC Stills had just visited Latin America “and was horrified at how similar the tensions in that region on the brink of revolution were to those in a developed democracy.” TB “The Summer of Love was unraveling before it even began.” RS500
Another account suggests the “crowds of longhairs” MA were “blocking sdewalks, smoking dope, spilling into the streets…Neighborhood businessmen complained of the disruptions,” MA concerned the “scruffy hippies were chasing away legitimate customers.” SJ When the Los Angeles police force was “called upon to rid the street of ‘undesirables,’ they busted heads.” MA
“When song lyrics stick in our minds…the reason is not to be found in the lyrics alone, but in the combination fo lyrics and tune and beat and performance and, most of all, sound.” PW “The song is a call to awareness and, at least implicitly, resistance, but there is also a plea for brotherhood, a rejection of ‘us and them’ thinking.” WK That message is accompanied by “Neil Young’s guitar [which] tolled like a funeral bell;” RS500 it “had a beautiful ringing...basically one note…that sounded like heaven opening. The entire apocalypse was in that one note.” TC
First posted 4/19/2020; last updated 7/24/2022.