Emmy/Grammy/Tony Award winner Billy Porter revisits the iconic protest song, “For What It’s Worth” as not only a response to the times we’re currently living in, but a call to action.
The original version, written by Stephen Stills, was recorded and released in 1966 by Buffalo Springfield. While the song peaked at #7 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the spring of 1967, it has gone on to be featured in numerous films and TV episodes as a quintessential ‘anti-war’ anthem.
A creative artist by nature, Porter takes the classic song and imbues it with an R&B/hip-hop feel with just a touch of gospel.
“I wanted it to be like Aretha Franklin’s version of ‘Eleanor Rigby,’” the multi-hyphenate told Rolling Stone. “I wanted to honor the original intention while holding on to who I am and where I come from.”
There’s also an improvised coda to the track, riffing on the word ‘change.’
“It all came out organically,” the 50-years-young artist shared with Rolling Stone. “I knew I wanted to say something and it needed to be positive and hopeful, and I was just singing over the end.”
Porter admits he was struck by the lyrics of the tune saying, “They reminded me very much of our news cycle, in the sense that it puts what’s happening right out in front.”
Think it’s time we
What’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down
Songwriter Stills says he’s “both proud and delighted” with Porter’s version of his song.
“For many years no one tried to ‘make it theirs’ as covers are supposed to do,” says Stills. “That an artist of Billy’s caliber has chosen to add his flourish to my song from so many years ago is totally in keeping with what I intended.”
With the ongoing coronavirus health threat, as well as an often hostile environment when it comes to LGBTQ rights in politics today, a hopeful message is certainly a welcome change.
“In the news cycle, I find there’s a lot of complaining and a lot of statements and observations, but not a lot of focus on how we change or address things,” said Porter. “So I wanted to offer some hope. Yes, things are happening, but how do you change it for the good?”
One way to promote change is by voting. And Porter says he sees “For What It’s Worth” as a ‘call to action’ adding, “I hope people are inspired and remember to vote. It’s our duty.”
“While we’re all stuck at home, now is a great time to make sure you’re registered to vote,” he said. “The election is comin,’ y’all. Let’s get ready and stay ready.”
The press release for the new single even includes this link to help people register to vote.
“I hope people are inspired to not give up, to continue to have hope, and to understand that the only way change comes is for the people to come together and demand it,” Porter concluded.
Speaking of ‘coming together,’ don’t miss Porter’s appearance this Sunday, April 26, during GLAAD’s “Together in Pride: You Are Not Alone” streaming event beginning at 8 pm ET/5 pm PT. Also announced as part of the event are Matt Bomer, Melissa Etheridge, Pete & Chasten Buttigieg, Kesha, Adam Lambert, Wilson Cruz, and many more.
In addition to performances, interviews, and video messages, the livestream event will help raise critical funds for CenterLink, a coalition of more than 250 LGBTQ community centers from 45 states, Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia, as well as Canada, China, Mexico, and Australia.