War (Edwin Starr song)
|Single by Edwin Starr|
|from the album War & Peace|
|B-side||"He Who Picks a Rose"|
|Released||June 10, 1970|
|Recorded||Hitsville USA (Studio A);
|Genre||Psychedelic soul, funk|
|Edwin Starr singles chronology|
Sample of the song
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|Song by The Temptations from the album Psychedelic Shack|
|Released||March 6, 1970|
|Writer||Norman Whitfield, Barrett Strong|
|Psychedelic Shack track listing|
"War" is a soul song written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong for the Motown label in 1969. Whitfield first produced the song – a blatant anti-Vietnam War protest – with The Temptations as the original vocalists. After Motown began receiving repeated requests to release "War" as a single, Whitfield re-recorded the song with Edwin Starr as the vocalist, deciding to withhold the Temptations' version so as not to alienate their more conservative fans. Starr's version of "War" was a number-one hit on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1970, and is not only the most successful and well-known record of his career, but is also one of the most popular protest songs ever recorded. Its power was reasserted when Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band took their rendition into the U.S. Top 10 in 1986. Following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the U.S., the song was placed on the list of post-9/11 inappropriate titles distributed by Clear Channel. It was covered by Frankie Goes to Hollywood.
Temptations' version and release debate 
The Temptations' version of "War", featuring Paul Williams and Dennis Edwards on lead vocals, was much less intense than the Edwin Starr version. Williams and Edwards deliver the song's anti-war, pro-peace message over a stripped-down instrumental track, with bass singer Melvin Franklin chanting a repeated recruit training-like "hup, two, three, four" in the background during the verses.
The song was included as a track on the March 1970 Psychedelic Shack album, which featured the title track as its only single. The track's direct message, summarized by its chorus ("War, what is it good for? Absolutely nothin'!"), struck a chord with the American public and resonated with growing public opposition to the war in Vietnam. Fans from across the nation, many of them college students and other young people, sent letters to Motown requesting the release of "War" as a single. The label did not want to risk the image of its most popular male group, and the Temptations themselves were also apprehensive about releasing such a potentially controversial song as a single. The label decided to withhold "War"'s release as a single, a decision that Whitfield fought until the label came up with a compromise: "War" would be released, but it would have to be re-recorded with a different act.
Edwin Starr version 
Edwin Starr, who had become a Motown artist in 1968 after his former label, Ric-Tic, was purchased by Motown founder Berry Gordy, Jr., became "War's" new vocalist. Considered among Motown's "second-string" acts, Starr had only one major hit, 1968's number-six hit "Twenty-Five Miles", to his name by this time.
He heard about the conflict surrounding the debate of whether or not to release "War", and volunteered to re-record it. Whitfield re-created the song to match Starr's James Brown-influenced soul shout: the single version of "War" was dramatic and intense, depicting the general anger and distaste the antiwar movement felt towards the war in Vietnam. Unlike the Temptations' original, Starr's "War" was a full-scale Whitfield production, with prominent electric guitar lines, clavinets, a heavily syncopated rhythm accented by a horn section, and with The Originals and Whitfield's new act The Undisputed Truth on backing vocals. An impromptu version was performed in the movie Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London by Alfie Owen-Allen.
Upon its release in June 1970, Starr's "War" became a runaway hit, and held the #1 position on the Billboard Pop Singles chart for three weeks, in August and September 1970. It replaced "Make It With You" by Bread, and was replaced by another Motown single, "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" by Diana Ross.
Notable as the most successful protest song to become a pop hit, earning compliments from contemporary protester John Lennon, "War" became Edwin Starr's signature song. Rather than hindering his career (as it might have done for the Temptations), "War" buoyed Starr's career, and he adopted the image of an outspoken liberal orator for many of his other early-1970s releases, including the similarly themed "Stop the War Now" from 1971. It and another 1971 single, "Funky Music Sho Nuff Turns Me On", continued Starr's string of Whitfield-produced psychedelic soul hits. After 1971, Starr's career began to falter, and, citing Motown's reliance on formulas, he departed the label in the mid-1970s.
Later in his career, after moving to the United Kingdom, Starr re-recorded several of his hits with British band Utah Saints. Starr's new version of "War" in 2003 was his final piece; he died on April 2 of the same year of a heart attack.
"War" was featured in the Eddsworld episode "Moving Targets" and was featured in the film Small Soldiers as well as its soundtrack, Rush Hour and in the TV spot to Tropic Thunder. It is heard in a 2012 TV commercial for Coke Zero.
Chart position 
Bruce Springsteen version 
|Single by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band|
|from the album Live/1975–85|
|B-side||"Merry Christmas Baby"|
|Released||November 10, 1986|
|Recorded||September 30, 1985
at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
|Writer(s)||Norman Whitfield, Barrett Strong|
|Producer||Bruce Springsteen, Jon Landau, Chuck Plotkin|
|Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band singles chronology|
"War" was performed in concert by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band in 1985, added to the set list for the final few shows of their lengthy Born in the U.S.A. Tour. Springsteen and his manager Jon Landau were looking for a way to make these concluding shows, taking place at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, a little different and special, and Landau suggested playing "War". A year earlier, he had suggested the same, as a loose protest against Reagan Administration foreign policy in Central America and elsewhere, but the band had been unable to come up with an effective arrangement. This time, however, they did. Springsteen taped the words of the song to his arm, prefaced the song with a spoken admonition not to blindly trust the government, leaders or anything else, and then he and the band performed a rock rendition.
Springsteen released the September 30, 1985 performance as a part of his 1986 box set, Live/1975–85. "War" was chosen as the first single from the set, and it was again a big hit, reaching #8 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The music video for the single was a straight concert filming of the same performance.
Springsteen continued to perform "War" regularly through his 1988 Tunnel of Love Express and Human Rights Now! Tours. He then retired it, until again performing it on his 2003 Rising Tour before and during the start of the Iraq War.
Chart position 
The E Street Band version (Live) 
- Lead vocals by Bruce Springsteen
- Background vocals by The E Street Band: Roy Bittan, Clarence Clemons, Danny Federici, Nils Lofgren, Patti Scialfa, Garry Tallent
- Instrumentation by The E Street Band.
Edwin Starr version 
- Lead vocals by Edwin Starr
- Background vocals by The Originals (Freddie Gorman, Walter Gaines, Hank Dixon, C.P. Spencer) and The Undisputed Truth (Joe Harris, Billie Rae Calvin, Brenda Joyce Evans)
- Instrumentation by The Funk Brothers
Temptations version 
- Lead vocals by Paul Williams and Dennis Edwards
- Background vocals by Dennis Edwards, Melvin Franklin, Paul Williams, Eddie Kendricks, and Otis Williams
- Instrumentation by The Funk Brothers
Frankie Goes to Hollywood version 
They released a version on the Welcome_to_the_Pleasuredome album in 29 October 1984, under the title "War (...and Hide)".
- Edwin Starr, "War" – Superseventies.com
- Edwin Starr interview by Pete Lewis, 'Blues & Soul' 10/92
- Andrew Hamilton, All Music Guide review
- Full lyrics of this song at MetroLyrics
"Make It with You" by Bread
|Billboard Hot 100 number-one single (Edwin Starr version)
August 29-September 12, 1970
"Ain't No Mountain High Enough" by Diana Ross