Looking to freshen up your continuing stay-at-home time with some new music? The latest single from Emmy, Tony, and Grammy Award-winner Billy Porter, released on Friday, might be just what you need to get you out of the quarantine rut and focus your attention on something with more wide-reaching importance than choosing your next Netflix binge.
“For What It’s Worth,” a soulful cover of the Stephen Stills-penned folk-rock classic originally recorded by Buffalo Springfield, is the “Kinky Boots” and “Pose” star’s latest effort to continue 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 says. “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.”
The song’s original composer, who after working with Buffalo Springfield went on to become part of the iconic folk-rock group Crosby, Stills and Nash (and sometimes Young), said of the new recording, “I am both proud and delighted that Billy Porter is covering my song… 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.”
Stills adds, “I have never been asked to ‘update’ ‘For What It’s Worth’ to accommodate Modern Times by anyone, ever. 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.”
As for why Porter chose this particular tune to cover at this particular time, he says:
“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. 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.”
To that end, Porter is making sure to remind his fans that, although they need to stay focused on the present and do their part to help battle COVID-19, they should also be 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.”
As he uses his musical voice to lean into this all-important election cycle, the outspoken Porter also wants to remind his listeners to embrace their own power to make a difference, too.
“I hope people are inspired to not give up,” he concludes. “To continue to have hope, and to understand that the only way change comes is for the people to come together and demand it.”