JYC Blog

For What It’s Worth (Buffalo Springfield cover)

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Jason Youngclaus

Stephen Stills is one of my favorite songwriters. In 1967 he wrote and recorded the legendary tune “For What It’s Worth” with the band Buffalo Springfield. On the recorded version, the harmonic guitar hook played by Neil Young is a study in the simplicity of a good musical hook. It’s instantly recognizable. My acoustic cover version gives a glimpse into how Stills must have written the song off of a simple I-IV guitar vamp, with the progression changing to a tension filled I-VII-IV-flatV for the chorus line. For guitarists and songwriters, check out how Stills uses that flatV (the C chord in the key of E) to create power and tension. Lyrically the song speaks to anyone who feels like they are having their voice and opinions suppressed. In the 1960s, this was very real to many people — and of course, it is still very real to many people today. Stills and Neil Young also collaborated on another favorite song of mine, “Ohio,” the 1970 events of which you might say “For What It’s Worth” eerily foreshadowed. On May 4th, 1970 four Kent State University students were gunned down in cold blood by US National Guardsmen for attending an anti-war protest on their campus. This event shocked America because as Americans we are brought up to believe that we have inalienable rights such as freedom of speech and assembly. Today in 2020 I think these songs are as relevant as ever as we see our rights being slowly eroded away, usually without a whimper, with the passing of such legislation as the USA Patriot Act. 

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