1966: Buffalo Springfield Warns Us To 'Stop, Children...' In 'For What It's Worth'

By | May 28, 2019

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Buffalo Springfield, featuring Stephen Stills, with hat. Image dated February 17, 1967. (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)

"There's something happening here / What it is ain't exactly clear..."

The ominous words and high, lonely guitar notes of Buffalo Springfield's "For What It's Worth," followed by the cautious line "Stop, children, what's that sound" make it a '60s anthem. It seems to sum up a mood that was permeating the country -- even though Stephen Stills wrote it about a local Los Angeles event, the "Sunset Strip Riots" of 1966.

"For What It's Worth" (sometimes parenthetically knows as "Stop Hey What's That Sound") also takes a humble observer's viewpoint of a situation -- its title, which appears nowhere in the lyrics, is the equivalent of "It's just my opinion" or "Not for nothing..." -- this is one man's take on a tense scene he admits he doesn't understand. 

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Buffalo Springfield. Source: ultimateclassicrock.com

Buffalo Springfield, formed in 1966, were part of the emerging country-rock scene and also dabbled in psychedelia. The band lasted about two years, and during their brief time together, they recorded three albums and had one major hit: “For What It’s Worth,” which peaked on the Billboard Hot 100 at #7. Many listeners assumed it was about the Vietnam War, or the clashes in the streets between police and protesters. It's also been associated with the Kent State riot, in which National Guardsmen opened fire on protesters, killing four of them. But that tragic event didn't occur until 1970.