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Music

British Soul Great Eric Burdon Debuts His Electrifying Take on a ’60s Protest Anthem

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Marianna Burdon

Eric Burdon’s soulful, heart-stopping wail made him one of the most unforgettable voices of the ’60s. As the lead singer for British Invasion heroes the Animals, he injected a dose of gritty reality into the pop charts with hits like “House of the Rising Sun” and “We Gotta Get Out of This Place,” and by decade’s end he had moved on to front the barrier-breaking funk group, War.

Today, the music legend remains an active advocate for peace, producing music aimed squarely at the status quo. In honor of his 76th birthday, Burdon is treating fans to a cover of Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth” on his website. Stephen Stills wrote the song after witnessing the power of a youth protest on Hollywood’s Sunset Strip in the fall of 1966, and it immediately became a powerful anthem of change.

For Burdon, the song’s message is especially timely given the tumultuous political climate.

“The whole idea of recording this song came as a result of a conversation I had with a young fan backstage, when she asked me, ‘Where are the protest songs today?'” he says in a statement. “Right then and there, I wanted to write to say something about the brutality that’s going on in the world today—but I couldn’t find any better way to say it than Buffalo Springfield did in ‘For What It’s Worth.’ I thought of reintroducing this classic, which is as relevant today as it was during the Vietnam war and speaks to this generation just as it spoke to mine. ” 

Burdon intends the song as a rallying cry for those who want to “speak their minds” and take action against forces they believe to be harmful to themselves, loved ones, and the planet. Deeply aware of history—he’ll appear on this Thursday’s episode the CNN series Soundtracks: Songs That Defined History at 10 p.m. (EST/PST)—he sees disturbing trends between current events and the battles fought half a century ago.

“The message is clear. Racism is back, stronger than it ever has been. The struggle between the sexes is at a boiling point. Violence is out of control. Our very home planet is under threat. It’s time to grow up and take responsibility. We must wake up before it’s too late. Everything we believed in, everything people fought and died for in the ’60s, is under attack today.

“So join me, sing with me, speak out against the madness,” he continues. “We are not afraid.”