You are on page 1of 6

1 Joe Hughes ENG 101 Pro.

Reynolds 4/22/14 For what Its worth Released by Buffalo Springfield in January 1967, the song For what its worth became an anthem for protesters during the hippie movement. With its simple lyrics, slow tempo, and catchy notes, Springfield had a classic on his hands. Quickly adopted by the mass populace For What Its Worth began playing in all protest and rallies across the United States. Even to this day, For What its Worth is a song that defines a generation and remains one of the greatest protest songs ever created. However, many people are unaware of the origins of it. Given the time period, and the major events happing, primarily the Vietnam War, people automatically assume it was created to protest the Vietnam war. When in truth, Buffalo Springfield was inspired by a much smaller event and its meaning is open to interpretation, perhaps in way not many have ever thought of before. Before we go any further, I feel its important to go over the background on society and the times in which this song was written and performed. During the 1960s and 1970s, of a countercultural movement that rejected the mores of mainstream American life. The movement originated on college campuses in the United States, although it spread to other countries, including Canada and Britain. Although the movement arose in part as opposition to U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War (195575), hippies were often not directly engaged in politics.(The Editors) It was a time of great peace and love as well as war and poverty. The youths of America standing up against social norms and the government, and it was because one of these protests that influenced Buffalo Springfield. On Saturday November 12, 1966, a local RocknRoll Los Angeles radio station broadcasted their displeasure of one of their favorites night clubs 10:00 pm curfew inflected by local residents and

2 business owners. The station announced that they would be putting on a rally at the club Pandoras Box. That night, approximately 1,000 youths appeared to protest the newly appointed curfew. Obviously attracting the attention of the police, LAPD quickly arrived on the scene to keep peace. An eventual struggle erupted and several people were taken into police custody. Inspired by the events of that night, Stephen Stills of Buffalo Springfield wrote For what its worth it and three weeks later the band recorded it, eventually releasing the song in January of the following year. Despite its origins around a simple protest, with the rising conflict in Vietnam For what its worth and its broad lyrics, quickly became imprinted in society as a major Vietnam War protest song. With thousands of people showing up at rallies its no surprise how quickly a song can spread through the populace. With its fame cemented during the hippie movement For What Its Worth and the Vietnam war will go hand in hand through history. Even though at the time many people considered it an anti-war theme, however, looking back through eyes and ears that werent around during this point in history, I believe this song can be interpreted as a pro Vietnam war song. A quick summary of the Vietnam War is needed before I begin. The Vietnam War was the prolonged struggle between nationalist forces attempting to unify the country of Vietnam under a communist government and the United States (with the aid of the South Vietnamese) attempting to prevent the spread of communism. Engaged in a war that many viewed as having no way to win, U.S. leaders lost the American public's support for the war.(Vietnam) The best way to dissect this song is to simply go through it line by line, making evaluations along the way in regards to the Vietnam war. With a run time of only 2:40 its a short song, but it holds a very deep meaning. No better place to begin than the start, theres something happening here, but what it is isnt exactly clear. These lines to me describe the situation of Vietnam and how the hippies saw it. Everyone knew that the Vietnam War was taking place but many either, didnt know the reason for it,

3 misunderstood the reason for it or, knew the reason however ignored it. Getting a definitive description of what was happing as the war was actively progressing was a hard thing to do. And not everyone that went to find out, by choice or not, didnt came back. Theres a man with a gun over there, telling me Ive got to beware . This is a reverence to the many protests that were accruing during the Vietnam War, The marches and rallies that were met by the police. Dispatched to keep order, Officers did not like to be berated by some of the protesting hippies, often time guns were draw when certain individuals were not complaint to an officers demand and sadly those conflicts rarely ended peacefully. Moving on to the chorus, I think its time we stop children, Whats that sound, Everybody look whats going down I believe the chorus to this song s tries to bring light on the events happing in southern Vietnam. I think its time we stop children line is a line used to calm the youths of the US and their first impressions of the war. The children of American need to calm down and really think and fully understand whats happing in Vietnam. Everybody look whats going down Draws attention to the Oppression and terrorism that Northern Vietnam is inflicting upon Southern Vietnam, and the rise of communist practice and the overall growing threat of North Vietnam. Theres battle lines being drawn, not that hard to connect this line to war times, Nobodys right if everybodys wrong This is a very critical line. It shows the possibly neutrality of the song. The lyrics indicate that neither the American Government nor the hippie movement is inherently right or wrong respectively. With times being as confusing as they were, deciding who was right and who was wrong was a personal choice. There was no, nor that much still today, over arcing embodiment of justice and morality. You had/have to decide for yourself what you will believe in. Young people speaking their minds. Again, not that hard to decipher, paying homage to the countless of young individuals that went to protests and gatherings to display what they had chosen to believe in. Getting so much resistance from behind. Now this line to me is a very important and personal line. This line demonstrates hippies not supporting the Vietnam war and certain hippies not giving veterans the support they so longingly

4 deserve. Despite what was going on, wither you personally are or were for or against the war, I deeply believe disrespecting veterans is one of the most despicable actions a person can commit in ones life. As much as people deny it, this abuse was very real as one Vietnam veteran writes, Vietnam vets were a bit crushed coming home. We were not honored, but were treated as the face of an unpopular war. I am not aware of many Vietnam vets who were not subjected to some disrespect, either personal or from the culture that called us baby killers. We were shamed and embarrassed. My car (with a military base sticker) was egged. I bought a wig to hide my military haircut. (Disrespect) Instances like these make it hard for someone like me to sympathize with the hippies. The next stanza Id like address as a whole because it all the lines connect with each other. What a field day for the heat, a thousand people in the street, singing songs and carrying signs, mostly sayin hoorah for our side. The heat being a reference to police or other militarized groups, once more this entire stanza is dedicated to the avid protests that occurred. A thousand people in the street paying direct attention to the original protest in L.A. That inspired Stephen Stills to create the song. sing songs and carrying signs during most of these hippie rally portions of which would include a lot of singing of popular protest songs, and of course you cant have a good protest without signs displaying famous slogans of the era such as make love not war and so on. Finally at the last stanza, these last four lines I believe are connected to the infamous Vietnam draft that took place. If youre unaware the Vietnam draft was when, ordinary people were picked off the street and enrolled in the military to help fight the war in Vietnam. Paranoia strikes deep, into your life it will creep, it starts when youre always afraid, step out of line the man come and take you away. While the first three lines I do believe are directly referencing the draft and how at any minute on any day you could potentially be drafted and sent overseas. The last line couldnt not only be about the draft but also, how some hippies acted at protests. Not all hippies were peaceful and would sometimes act out simply to annoy and police presence. If anyone stepped out of line or crossed a line so to speak, they would be apprehended by

5 the police. As much as theyd like us to believe it wasnt always the heat that were starting conflicts during supposedly peaceful protest. If an officer felt that a certain individual had become a threat to himself or his comrades or even perhaps other protesters, action had to be done. I feel like Springfield implemented this line as a way to warn protester to not act rashly at protests. The more one acted up, the more likely they would get penalized for it. Its a way to remind people that should they want to partake in these rallies to be careful, but more importantly, be respectful. In conclusion, the song ending in repeats of the chorus, For What Its Worth is a one of the most influential songs ever created. Its message helped define a period of history, and its creation impacted many peoples lives. Born in such a controversial time, I believe, depending on your point of view, this song can easily be seen as a double sided coin. It addresses and supports both sides of the argument for or against the Vietnam War, with one side ultimately being the definitive definition society has chosen to recognize. I hope that throughout this analyzes, readers have learned to consider the possible neutrality or duality of this legendary song. Ive done all I can you provide you with my argument; its now up to you to decide what you believe in.

6 Works Cited The Editors of Encyclopdia Britannica. "Hippie (subculture)." Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d. Web. 22 Apr. 2014. "Vietnam War - A History of the Vietnam War." 20th Century History. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Apr. 2014. "Disrespect for Vietnam Vets Is Fact, Not Fiction." News, Weather, Sports from Minneapolis, St. Paul and Minnesota. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Apr. 2014. Buffalo Springfield. For What It's Worth. Charles Greene, Brian Stone, 1966.Youtube. Web.