*Image above taken from Stevie Nicks’ Instagram page
For those of you who are handwriting-reading impaired like me, here is the text of Stevie Nicks’ handwritten note regarding her new cover of the Stephen Stills’ penned song, originally recorded by the Buffalo Springfield:
I am so excited to release my new song this Friday (9/30). It’s called “For What It’s Worth” and it was written by Stephen Stills in 1966. It meant something to me then, and it means something to me now. I always wanted to interpret it thru (sic) the eyes of a woman – and it seems like today, in the times that we live in – that it has a lot to say…
I can’t wait for you to hear it. Stevie Nicks
“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” – “For What It’s Worth,” Stephen Stills
We’re not a political blog here at B&V. As I’m fond of saying, “I’m a lover, not a fighter.” But there are occasions in this life where art and politics intersect. The best of art – whether it’s painting, poetry or music – reflects the times in which it’s created. And to quote the movie Aliens, “Hey, maybe you haven’t been keeping up on current events, but we just got our asses kicked, pal!” These are deeply troubled times. I keep waiting for someone to step forward with a protest song that captures the moment. From Iran – where the “Morality Police” killed a woman for not wearing her hijab “correctly,” – all the way to Ohio, women and their basic human rights are under siege from conservative, uptight, old men. Who will step forward and lead us musically out of the darkness… Will it be some new artist? Sadly, no. It’s icon, legend Stevie Nicks, who has recorded a song originally written in 1966 by Stephen Stills, who has captured the current moment’s protest in song. Words written almost 60 years ago seem so relevant today… “there’s a man with a gun over there, telling me I got to beware…” Sad that this song still feels so urgent today.
I’ve been a fan of Stevie Nicks almost from the beginning of my life long obsession with rock music. Like so many great bands, it was my brother who turned me on to Fleetwood Mac. He had purchased Rumours and one day I had wandered into his room and ended up staying for the entire album. I’m not sure how it happened but a few days later my brother entered my room which was rare (“Get out of here Curtis, I don’t hear you unless you knock.”) and he was carrying Rumours. He made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. He’d trade me that legendary album for my copy of Supertramp’s Breakfast In America. I had worn that album out with repeated plays. My brother and I never bartered albums. And, to this day, this is the only instance of us trading an LP in our long and storied history. Believe me, I’ve known this guy my whole life. Anyway, I remember sitting in my room listening to “Dreams” while I stared at Stevie’s image on the cover art. We all had a crush on Stevie. She was the cool chick you could drink a beer (or a wine cooler) with, maybe get high and if you’re lucky possibly make out with and it’d be no big deal.
Her first solo LP, produced by Jimmy Iovine Bella Donna, came out when I was a junior in high school. I think it made my list of best solo debut LPs… I remember driving up and down the main drag of my neighborhood and cranking “Edge of Seventeen.” Her duet with Tom Petty, “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around,” is one of the greatest duets ever. I just found out the Rock Chick is a huge fan of the duet “Leather and Lace” by Stevie and Don Henley. It says a lot that she digs the song since, like “The Dude” she hates the Eagles. I was in college when The Wild Heart came out. Oh my, we loved that album. It was on that tour – her first as a solo artist – that I got see Stevie live in concert in Wichita, Kansas. Joe Walsh opened up that show and kept saying how great it was to be “home.” We thought he was joking. Turns out he was from Wichita. I ended up in the front row by the stage during the encore when Stevie sang “Beauty And The Beast” which I thought was for me… I was a bit of a beast in those days. What a band she had that night – Liberty Devito on drums (from Billy Joel’s band), Benmont Tench on organ (Heartbreaker), Roy Bittan on piano (E Street Band), and on guitar, legendary session guy Waddy Wachtel (Everly Brothers, Zevon, Keef). Instead of a t-shirt I bought an 8×10 glossy, black and white photo of Stevie which remained on my wall until I graduated.
It wasn’t hard to be a Stevie fan in the 70s/80s. At the time Lindsey Buckingham had sort of lost his mind and Stevie’s songs were the typically the best ones on the Fleetwood Mac LPs. I like Christine McVie but she was a bit saccharine for me back then. Nicks was on a roll. But after The Wild Heart, Stevie kind of got consumed by her drug habit. From there my relationship to Stevie’s music, like so many of my relationships before the Rock Chick, was “on again, off again.” The Rock Chick owned and still loves Trouble In Shangri-La. I had taken a long break from Stevie’s LPs until I bought In Your Dreams. I thought it was a strong comeback album. I also jumped in on 24 Karat Gold, although admittedly it was her recording a bunch of songs she’d written in her heyday. Her latter day music is the kind of stuff I started this blog for.
Which all leads me to her cover of “For What It’s Worth.” You know we do love our cover songs/cover albums around here. Stephen Stills wrote the song in 1966 for his then band the Buffalo Springfield after witnessing the riots in L.A. protesting a 10 pm curfew. Once again old, uptight men trying to force the hipster boomers into going home early. While that is such a boomer reason to write a protest song, Stills’ words were prescient. “Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong.” Here is the original version of the song:
I know Stevie has been performing this song on her current tour. Because folks, if you don’t think the “Morality Police” can come to your hometown, you haven’t been paying attention. In the last few months the U.S. Supreme Court has rolled America back to the Dark Ages. I’m surprised they haven’t legalized burning woman accused of being witches at the stake… which I do think Stevie is a Wiccan but that’s another post… Stevie just owns this song. I can’t say enough about her version. And yes, Waddy Wachtel is on the lead, buzz-saw guitar which hovers over the song like a police helicopter over the poor part of town. Stevie’s voice is hypnotic. At the end she keeps quietly, almost whispering the lyrics. It’s a simply amazing version of the song. Even the Rock Chick exclaimed, after I played the track, turned up to 11, in her car, “That’s an awesome song.” She did have to ask me who originally sang the song but not everybody is a musical obsessive. Here is Nicks’ version of the song:
Everybody really does need to “look what’s going down.” We’ve got to stand up for women now more than ever. All women everywhere deserve freedom. It may be time to start “takin’ it to the streets” people. Turn this amazing protest song up as loud as it’ll go, burn your bra and more importantly, register to vote. Whatever your political persuasion. Sorry if this PSA rocked your world.
13 thoughts on “New Song: Stevie Nicks’ Covers Stephen Stills’ “For What It’s Worth” – A Protest Song For The Ages”
Buffalo Springfield was a band bursting with talent. Ritchie Furay ( Poco, Souther-Hillman-Furay Band and solo). Neil Young and Stephen Stills. Stills wrote this song at a very young age and it was right on time, right on it. It was an instant classic and it expressed the zeitgeist that lived among the youth – war in Vietnam, Richard Nixon, and the youth who rebelled against the establishment that forced them to fight in a country far away. I really like Stevie Nicks’ version and especially the way she makes the song her own without deviating too far from the original. Thanks Kenneth.
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Yeah Stevie handles this absolute classic song with such a deft hand. It’s an iconic tune from a great songwriter and super band and she really did capture the spirit of the song for these current times and made it her own. Thank you for the feedback Guy!
Intriguing song title too and it doesn’t really say anything about the content of the song. Better than – ‘Stop, What’s that Sound’, that’s for sure.
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Guy I keep forgetting to ask you what you think of the Beck cover of Neil’s “Old Man.” Maybe you commented and I’ve just forgotten, but I found it interesting.
I have known this song for 50 years now and still play it regularly and believe that the original can never be matched. But I have to admit that Beck made a very good version of it that comes very close to and does justice to the original.The arrangement and guitar accompaniment is perfect and Beck has a very good singing voice. There’s really nothing to dislike about it.
I did hear that Neil wasn’t happy about it because it was used as a commencial and responded on Instagram by adding a still from the clip of ‘This Note’s for You’. But hey, he sold his back catalog for millions of dollars so he can’t complain that others use his music as they see fit. Personally, I think it’s a good thing that others cover his songs because that way they stay alive and reach other and younger people. I see it as a tribute to a great artist and a great human being.
Thanks for asking my opinion Kenneth.
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Guy, thanks for sharing. You’re my foremost Neil Young fan out there so I had to know. My opinion is like yours, great song done for perhaps not the best of motives but I like the track!
One can only be proud that renowned artists such as Beck or Stevie Nicks cover your songs. It would be a whole different story if someone makes a Las Vegas version of it and screw the song. The horror!
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I’m going to add one more thing and then I’ll shut up – the fact that both songs, ‘For What’s it Worth’ and ‘Old Man’ are still being covered after more than 50 years, is that both songs are still relevant, still appeal to people and therefore are timeless and have lost none of their shine, And Stephen Stills and Neil Young have many more classics to their name than just these two. Your reviews keep the flame of timeless music alive and your love for music is the reason I love reading them so much. Greetings from Belgium, Guy
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Thank you Guy!