Thu. Dec. 05, 2019

Edwin Starr – War (7 inch version)

Classics: Edwin Starr – War (Gordy)

Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong wrote this song as a defense speech against the Vietnam War. As a matter of fact, they initially thought about The Temptations to sing it. But Motown opted for another singer – Edwin Starr – to give it a single release. This in order to avoid alienating the more conservative fans of the group. Even though they also recorded happened to record it as a part of their 1970 ‘Psychedelic Shack’ album…

As a matter of fact, ‘War’ instantly found a link with the American public. Therefore resonating along with an ongoing oppostion to the conflict in Vietnam. Meanwhile standing among the most popular protest songs ever recorded.

With thanks to his way more powerful interpretation. This in addition to its famous chorus… ” War, what is it good for? Absolutely nothin’!”
Strangely enough, The Temptations would finally give it their own version a few months later.

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Overview
– Nashville, TN native Charles Edwin Hatcher got raised in Ohio before relocating to Detroit, MI during his teens. He would get his first break on TV though. This while makin’ an appearance on ‘The Uncle Jake Show’, performing with Billie Holiday.

In 1957, only aged 15, he formed a Doo-Wop group by the likes of the Future Tones. His debut-single -‘Agent Double O Soul’ – saw the light back in 1965 on local label Ric-Tic Records. A reference to famous British Agent James Bond, it got him straight to a certain recognition. Opening the path to further cuts for the label the same year. Meanwhile 1966 would see him delivering his debut for Motown with the Norman Whiftield produced ‘I Want My Baby Back’. He would enjoy his first international success 3 years after though. This by the likes of ’25 Miles’ (also recorded by Michael Jackson), which he co-wrote with Johnny Bristol and Harvey Fuqua. His backing singers at the time being Total Concept Unlimited who later became Rose Royce.

The biggest hit of his career is without a single doubt ‘War’ with production work courtesy of Norman Whitfield. His version of it selling more than 3 million copies worldwide. Meanwhile turning itself into an anthem for the antiwar movement. Still resonating nowadays in movie soundtracks and in the Hip-Hop scene.

Extra worth the mention gems followed when he switched from Motown to 20th Century Fox. Eventually venturing into Disco territories. This with ‘Contact’ from his 1978 ‘Clean’ album. Then ‘It’s Called The Rock’ and ‘H.A.P.P.Y. Radio’ from his album of the likes the year after. With both of them receiving the mixing treatment of Rick Gianatos. Another worth the listen gem would follow the year after. This under the form of the phonky ‘Boop Boop Song’. But it only saw the light as the flipside of the M.O.R. ‘Tell-A-Star’ and, as a direct result, failed to get the recognition it deserved. Starr leavin’ 20th Century Fox soon after its release and the one of ‘his 1980 ‘Stronger Than You Think You Are’ album…

Relocated to England since 1973, he enjoyed experiences with various labels including Motorcity. He nevertheless never managed to recapture the position that was his during the 70’s.

Edwin Starr sadly died of a heart Attack aged 61 on Apr. 02, 2003, while taking a bath at his home in Bramcote near Nottingham…

– Contemporary Music may not have become what it is without Norman Whitfield‘s contribution. As a matter of fact, he might pretty well be the first producer ever who established a sound / an approach as a trademark…

Hailing from Harlem, NY, he and his family relocated to Detroit where he started working with Motown’s head Berry Gordy. Aged 19, he progressively established himself as in charge of the quality control department. A position which allowed him to determine which songs would or would not be released, prior to join the label’s in-house songwriting staff.

He would find his niche in the production though. When he came to collaborate with Marvin Gaye on the memorable ‘I Heard It Through The Grapevine’ back in 1968. Then with Edwin Starr, 2 years after, crafting ‘War’ for him. But even more when he took over Smokey Robinson‘s role as the main producer for The Temptations back in 1966.

From then on, he took the group to a brand new dimension. What he did was changing the nature of the songs, from love matters to the social issues of the time, such as war, poverty and politics. But also experimenting sound effects and production techniques. Eventually getting the group into a darker infectious sound blending psychedelic Rock and Funk. From this liaison which lasted until 1975, came gems such as ‘Ain’t Too Proud To Beg’ back in 1966. But also ‘Cloud Nine’ and ‘Ball Of Confusion (That’s What The World Is Today)’. Not to mention the memorable ‘Papa Was A Rolling Stone’, ‘Plastic Man’ and ‘Law Of The Land’

Whitfield parted ways with The Temptations coz’ they disliked how he put more emphasis on the instrumentation instead of their vocals. And also because they wished he wrote more romantic ballads for them. This therefore led him to leave Motown and launch his own Whitfield Records imprint. From then, he convinced The Undisputed Truth and Jr. Walker. Respectively producing ‘You + Me = Love’ and ‘Back Street Boogie’ from them. Then Rose Royce who were Edwin Starr‘s backing band while at Motown.

He most likely scored his biggest success ever with ‘Car Wash’ for the latter. A cut which won Whitfield a 1977 Grammy Award for Best Score Soundtrack Album. He soon after also composed the theme song for the 1977 motion picture ‘Which Way Is Up?’, performed by Stargard.
Among his biggest productions as well, the mellow ‘Love Don’t Live Here Anymore’ by Rose Royce. And also ‘Do Your Dance’ and ‘It Makes You Feel Like Dancing’. Not to mention ‘Is It Love You’re after’. A jam which British producer Mark Moore sampled on ‘Theme From S-Express’ back in 1988.

Whifield underwent treatment for diabetes and other ailments at Los Angeles’s Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, in 2008. He fell into a coma, briefly improved, but sadly succumbed to diabetic complications on Sept. 16, 2008, aged 68.

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