Stevie Nicks on What Inspired Her to Record Stephen Stills’ ‘For What It’s Worth’

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This ad for Buffalo Springfield’s single appeared in the Feb. 4, 1967, issue of Record World

Stevie Nicks has shared some thoughts on her new cover version of the Stephen Stills iconic song, “For What It’s Worth,” originally recorded by Buffalo Springfield in 1967. Nicks’ recording arrived moments after midnight on Sept. 23, 2022. In an interview with Apple Music’s Zane Lowe that was shared on Sept. 26, Nicks says that when she first heard the Springfield version she said to herself, “I’m going to record that song someday.”

Nicks first shared news of the recording in a handwritten note on her social media platforms. “I am so excited to release my new song this Friday. 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 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.”

There are several noteworthy things associated with all of it.

It’s not the first time Nicks has recorded a song with that title. In 2011, she released a track with that name that she wrote with the Heartbreakers’ Mike Campbell. The song was included on her In Your Dreams album. The single was a minor hit on the Adult Contemporary chart.

Watch the official video for the 2011 song

Secondly, not to be overlooked is the truly phenomenal penmanship that Nicks displayed in her post. Nicks’ note is done in cursive handwriting like the kind taught to every grade school kid raised in the Fifties and Sixties.

In her interview with Apple Music, Nicks was asked why she decided to record and release the song now. She recorded it a week after the deadly Uvalde mass shooting on May 24. “I thought, okay, I’m going to record it,” she told Zane Lowe. “I called my favorite producer, [Grammy®-Award winner] Greg Kurstin, and he recorded it [and] played everything except the lead guitar solo. And, I went in and sang it, and with this whole Covid thing, it’s not all so easy to just do that, but we did it, and we wanted to put it through a record company, because it was early in the summer. And so, that of course then takes a while, and then I had to go back on the road.

“Everybody has their own meaning for that song, but I just think that somewhere in Stephen Stills’ amazing songwriting, visionary, whatever you want to say, for what it’s worth, he managed, in that song, to cover everything. To cover everything that everybody’s complaining about, and fighting against, in the entire world. He managed, in that song, to touch on everything so subtly… you could have said, ‘Okay, is that song about gun violence? Is that song about women’s rights? Is it about immigration?’ You wouldn’t have had any idea exactly what it was about, but you could take it all in to be about anything that you personally wanted it to be about. But, I know, if I’m going to sing some really famous rockstar guy’s song, I better sing it well, or I’m going to get totally panned. So, I put everything I have into doing an interpretation of a song written by a man and sung by a man…especially such a famous man and songwriter as Stephen Stills. So I really did try to stay as within Stephen’s realm as I could. And that’s really, basically what I tell the audience is, ‘This is a song I long wanted to record. This seemed to be the right time. And I hope that you, whatever you’re…’ I don’t know if I ever said whatever your views on anything are, I hope that you can rise above that and take it for what it is.

Watch her perform it live

“It was not ever a protest song,” she says. “Stephen wrote it about the kids on the Sunset Strip getting together to go to the Roxy, and Troubadour, and everything. And then, the police said, ‘Well, you can’t be keeping everybody in the [Hollywood] Hills awake. So, you have to be gone by 10 o’clock.’ And, of course, I don’t go to bed till eight in the morning. So, just imagine. It’s like, you have to be off the streets at 10 o’clock, and they’re like, ‘Are you serious? That’s not going to happen.’ So, it turned into riots. I mean, they were like, ‘You’re not going to tell us when we have to go to bed. So, we’re not going to leave’.”

On the recording, she’s joined by two longtime members of her touring band. The first is backing vocalist Sharon Celani, who began recording and performing with Nicks in 1978. The other is guitarist Waddy Wachtel, who also serves as her musical director. His connection to Nicks goes back to 1973, when he played on Buckingham Nicks. Since then, Wachtel has appeared on all of Nicks’ solo studio albums. Kurstin plays multiple instruments, including drums, organ, and guitar.

Speaking of when he wrote it, Stills says, “I get home, pick up an acoustic guitar, and all of a sudden it turns into a song.”

The word “heat” in the lyric “What a field day for the heat” actually refers to the authorities who arrested many of the protestors. The song was the highest-charting single in Buffalo Springfield’s brief career, reaching #7 on the Hot 100.

Listen to Nicks’ new cover version

Hours after Nicks posted the song, Stills wrote, “An unmistakeable voice and timeless lyrics come together for a beautiful version of #ForWhatItsWorth. Heartfelt thanks to Stevie Nicks and her team.”

Tickets to see Nicks are available here and here.

Related: Buffalo Springfield bandmates’ Stills and Neil Young performed the song in 2018 at a charity concert

Best Classic Bands Staff

4 Comments so far

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  1. Heather Tran
    #1 Heather Tran 23 September, 2022, 04:01

    It’s been a long time since last time I heard stills for what its worth, and yet, Nicks brought the new feeling into this, yet still keep the spirit of the song well

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  2. BeatleStone
    #2 BeatleStone 23 September, 2022, 07:04

    Great cover of the BS classic that sounds like an original. Stevie is the ultimate rock queen.

    Reply this comment
  3. Da Mick
    #3 Da Mick 24 September, 2022, 20:36

    No one can argue that this isn’t one of the greatest classic songs of its era. While it certainly represents a generational mindset of the times it was written in, i have to question what doing the song “through the eyes of a woman” has to do with the song at all, especially since there aren’t any gender references or references to sexual roles in the song at all. I hate to pick on Nicks, but she does set herself up on a tee. She may be “The Queen Of Rock” as Beatlestone puts it. But she’s also a major drama queen.

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  4. Da Mick
    #4 Da Mick 2 October, 2022, 16:50

    Los Lobos also just recently recorded “For What It’s Worth” on their latest album, “Native Sons.” I guess they wanted to interpret the song through the eyes of Mexicans…..

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