For What It’s Worth

Today is the birthday of Stephen Stills. Stills was born in Dallas in 1945. By the age of 15 he was playing professionally. He came up through the folk scene in New York, recording a folk-styled album with the Au Go Go Singers in 1964 before he headed out to Los Angeles and found success.

Stills is a political moron who has undergone some of the rock star’s usual tribulations, but who has also been at the heart of outstanding bands as a singer, songwriter and guitarist. He stood out in the short-lived and awesomely talented Buffalo Springfield in the sixties. He subsequently formed the equally short-lived Manassas in the early seventies. On the self-titled Manassas double album, you can hear the influence of the blues, country and bluegrass on his work.

Stills hold the honor of induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice on the same evening, first for his work with Buffalo Springfield and then for his work with Crosby, Stills and Nash. He is also a fine solo performer, as I saw myself when he came through Minneapolis last summer.

The video below captures a live performance of “It Doesn’t Matter” with Stills’s formidable Manassas ensemble. Chris Hillman provides the rhythm guitar and harmony vocal, Al Perkins contributes the color on pedal steel, Fuzzy Samuels plays bass, and Joe Lala is on the congas while Dallas Taylor is on drums and, I think, on drugs. Taylor survived and now helps those with alcohol and chemical dependencies, seeking to pay back those who helped him get clean.

“It Doesn’t Matter” is a song that ostensibly addresses a girlfriend but seems to me to capture the rock star’s whirlwind. “It doesn’t matter which of our fantasies fled…”

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