Emmy, Grammy, and Tony Award-winner Billy Porter has released a soul-stirring cover of Stephen Stills’ “For What It’s Worth,” as performed by Buffalo Springfield, continuing the legacy of using his art as a means to raise consciousness.
“I decided to record ‘For What It’s Worth’ because I wanted to have my art and my music matter, make a difference,” Porter said. “I’ve always been a political person. I come from the generation where the music reflected what was going on in the world, in the day. The song was written and performed sort of during the civil rights era, the Vietnam War, it was protest music and I wanted to have a hand in bringing that back and speaking truth directly to power.”
Porter has reimagined the folk-rock classic adding a soulful spin that rocks out as much as it “grooves out.” Porter’s innovative take finds him laying down multiple vocal parts that build to an uplifting crescendo that takes the iconic tune into new territory. The song is produced by Zack Arnett for Arnett Music and executive produced by Bill Butler and Carmen Cacciatore for The Butler Music Company Inc.
“I am both proud and delighted that Billy Porter is covering my song, ‘For What It’s Worth,”’ said Stills. “For many years, no one tried to ‘make it theirs’ as covers are supposed to do. 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 outbreak of the coronavirus, national attention has shifted from the 2020 election cycle to the worldwide pandemic, for which Porter feels “For What It’s Worth” is also well-suited.
“One of the heartening things that I’ve seen during the coronavirus outbreak is how we’ve all banded together. Everyone doing their part, checking on each other, using technology to connect with one another,” said Porter. “I think the messages in ‘For What It’s Worth’ are so relevant now. It’s a song about unifying and coming together to make a change.”
While Porter steadfastly encourages folks to stay focused on the present, with everyone doing their part to help battle COVID-19, he’s also keeping an eye on November when U.S. citizens will be voting for a new president.
“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.”
“I have never been asked to ‘update’ ‘For What It’s Worth’ to accommodate modern times by anyone, ever,” Stills continued. “Modern times seem to circle back and find it yet again, an appropriate reflection of uncertainty and suspicion. We always do the same thing. Any form of eccentricity, or failure to conform, or difference in race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion or political dissent results in your being cast as one of the ‘other.’ An ‘outsider.’ A term that leaves you open to being shunned, bullied, demeaned or suspect, ‘less than’ American. Billy Porter gets all of that and has done a masterful job of capturing the essence of the original Buffalo Springfield rendition, recorded the day after it was written, and made it his own. Pure genius.”
“For What It’s Worth” is the follow-up to Porter’s most recent single, “Love Yourself,” which hit No. 1 on the Billboard Club Play Songs Chart in summer of 2019 and was timed to World Pride/Stonewall 50. The video for “Love Yourself” was a celebrity lip-sync extravaganza featuring cameos by Porter’s “Pose” co-stars along with Cyndi Lauper, Kelly Ripa, Debra Messing, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and designer Christian Siriano, among many others.
“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.
Porter is an Emmy, Tony and Grammy Award-winning actor, singer, director, composer and playwright with groundbreaking performances as Pray Tell in “Pose” on FX, for which he recently received an Emmy Award, as well as Golden Globe and Critics Choice nominations, as well as Lola in “Kinky Boots” on Broadway for which he won a Tony Award for Lead Actor in a Musical. Porter has also recorded several albums and acted in many Broadway and off-Broadway productions, including “Miss Saigon,” “Grease,” “Angels in America,” and “The Merchant of Venice.” Additional television and film credits include “American Horror Story: Apocalypse,” “The Get Down,” “The Humbling” and “The Broken Hearts Club,” among others. Porter can be seen in the highly anticipated “Cinderella” re-make next year.