Last night I went to a concert by Stephen Stills and Judy Collins, one-time lovers and long-time friends, but never before collaborators (except for Stills’ uncredited guitar backing Collins’ sixth album). They have a new recording coming out this month, supported by a tour of which last night’s event is a part. Stills was romantically involved with Collins when Crosby, Stills, and Nash began in 1968, but they split before the recording of CSN’s 1969 debut album. That record’s opening song, “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes,” the final encore last night, was Stills’ bittersweet look back at the relationship. The fledgling group’s performance of it is a highlight of the iconic Woodstock documentary and lives on as an evergreen classic-rock radio regular.
That they perform together now is remarkable. They cannot sing like they once did (and Stills cannot really sing at all anymore even though he can still shred on guitar), but it was still(s) great to see these old masters continue to work their magic after all these years. For me, the highlight of the evening was the iconic Stills protest song, For What It’s Worth (yes, that’s Stills, Jim Messina, David Crosby and Neil Young – The Buffalo Springfield – introduced in 1967 by Peter Tork of The Monkees in the video below).1
Stills and Collins both spoke last evening about certain songs regularly resurfacing due to societal need and argued that this song is one of them. Last night’s rendition was much less haunting and much more aggressive than the original, like the Stills solo version below.
The focus of the song is on the “battle lines being drawn … young people speaking their minds getting so much resistance from behind” while presumably speaking truth to power. That is a crucial part of the standard 60s narrative (along with peace, protest, love, and rock ‘n’ roll), even though it was also the most prolific period of domestic terrorism in our history. We have pretty much erased that from our collective memory. Continue reading