Edwin Starr

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Edwin Starr
Background information
Birth nameCharles Edwin Hatcher
Born(1942-01-21)January 21, 1942
Nashville, Tennessee, U.S.
DiedApril 2, 2003(2003-04-02) (aged 61)
Chilwell, Nottinghamshire, England
GenresSoul, R&B, funk, disco, psychedelia
Occupation(s)Singer, songwriter
Years active1951–2003
LabelsRic-Tic, Motown, 20th Century, Motorcity
Associated actsThe Future Tones, Blinky Williams

Edwin Starr (born Charles Edwin Hatcher; January 21, 1942 – April 2, 2003) was an American singer and songwriter. Starr was famous for his Norman Whitfield-produced Motown singles of the 1970s, most notably the number-one hit "War".

Starr was born in Nashville and raised in Ohio, and later lived in Detroit while singing for Ric-Tic and Motown Records. He was backed by the band that would become known as "Black Merda". Hawkins and Veasey of the group played on most of his early hits on the Ric Tic Label. Starr's songs "25 Miles" and "Stop the War Now" were also major successes, in 1969 and 1971 respectively. In the 1970s Starr's base shifted to the United Kingdom, where he continued to produce music, and resided until his death.

Early life[edit]

Charles Edwin Hatcher was born in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1942. He and his cousins, soul singers Roger and Willie Hatcher, moved to Cleveland, Ohio, where they were raised.

In 1957, Starr formed a doo-wop group, the Future Tones, and began his singing career. Starr lived in Detroit in the 1960s and recorded at first for the small Ric-Tic label, part of the Golden World recording company, and later for Motown Records (under the Gordy Records imprint), after the latter absorbed Ric-Tic in 1968.

The song that launched his career was "Agent Double-O-Soul" (1965), a reference to the James Bond films popular at the time. Other early hits included "Headline News", "Back Street", and "S.O.S. (Stop Her on Sight)". While at Ric-Tic, he wrote the song, "Oh, How Happy", a #12 Billboard Hot 100 hit in 1966 for The Shades of Blue (he would go on to release a version of the song with Blinky in 1969) and sang lead for the Holidays on their #12 R&B hit, "I'll Love You Forever". At Motown he recorded a string of singles before enjoying international success with "25 Miles", which he co-wrote with producers Johnny Bristol and Harvey Fuqua. It peaked at #6 in both the Hot 100 and R&B Charts in 1969.

It was when Motown's Berry Gordy became frustrated with smaller labels like Ric-Tic stealing some of the success of his company that he bought out the label. Many of Starr's Ric-Tic songs (subsequently owned by Motown) like "Back Street" and "Headline News" became favored northern soul classics. His early Ric-Tic hit "Stop Her On Sight (S.O.S.)" was reissued in Britain (with "Headline News" as its B-side) in 1968, and it performed better than the original release on the UK Chart, surpassing the original #35 and peaking at #11. His 1970 song "Time" also helped to establish him as a prominent artist on the northern soul scene.


The biggest hit of Starr's career, which cemented his reputation, was the Vietnam War protest song "War" (1970). Starr's intense vocals transformed a Temptations album track into a number one chart success, which spent three weeks in the top position on the U.S. Billboard charts, an anthem for the antiwar movement and a cultural milestone that continues to resound in movie soundtracks and hip hop music samples. It sold over three million copies, and was awarded a gold disc.[1] "War" appeared on both of Starr's War & Peace album and its follow-up, Involved, produced by Norman Whitfield. Involved also featured another song of similar construction titled "Stop the War Now", which was a minor hit in its own right. Music critic Robert Christgau called the latter album "Norman Whitfield's peak production".[2]

"Starr is more naturally strident than any of the Temptations, which suits both 'War,' a song he simply takes away from them, and 'Stop the War,' Barrett Strong's most strident protest yet."

The Best of the Staples Singers review in Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies (1981)[2]

Starr continued to record, most notably the song "Hell Up in Harlem" for the 1974 film Hell Up in Harlem, which was the sequel to Black Caesar, an earlier hit with a soundtrack by James Brown. In 1979, Starr reappeared on the charts with a pair of disco hits, "(Eye-to-Eye) Contact" and "H.A.P.P.Y. Radio". "Contact" was the more successful of the two, peaking at #65 on the US pop charts, #13 on the R&B chart, #1 on the dance chart, and #6 on the UK Singles Chart. "H.A.P.P.Y. Radio" was also a top ten hit in the UK, reaching #9 on the chart in mid-1979. By now, he had joined the well-established disco boom and had further singles on 20th Century Records. Over the years, he released tracks on a variety of labels, including Avatar, Calibre, 10 Records, Motown (a return to his former label for a 1989 remix of "25 Miles"), Streetwave and Hippodrome. His Starr café empire still enjoys success in and around Essex.

In 1985, Starr released "It Ain't Fair". Despite garnering the attention of many in the soul and dance clubs, it fell short of becoming a major hit (managing a #56 on the UK Charts). "It Ain't Fair," along with several other singles released around the same time, would later appear on Starr's Through the Grapevine album, which was not released until 1990. Starr appeared on the charity number one single "Let It Be" by Ferry Aid in 1987. Later that year, Starr teamed up with the Stock, Aitken and Waterman production company for the club hit "Whatever Makes Our Love Grow". In 1989, a number 17 UK hit by the Cookie Crew called "Got to Keep On" sampled a portion of "25 Miles".[3] This track was then featured on a 1990 dance medley made for the BRIT Awards, which made number 2 in the UK Singles Chart.[4] A club mix of various artists, it included the previous years remix of "25 Miles".

In 1989, Starr also joined Ian Levine's Motorcity Records, releasing six singles and the album Where Is the Sound, as well as co-writing several songs for other artists on the label. Starr resurfaced briefly in 2000 to team up with the UK band Utah Saints to record a new version of "Funky Music Sho' 'Nuff Turns Me On". He appeared again in 2002 to record a song with the British musician Jools Holland, singing "Snowflake Boogie" on Holland's compact disc More Friends; and to record another track with Utah Saints, a so-far-unreleased version of his number one hit "War"—his last recording.

In 1995, Starr featured in Blue Juice, a 1995 British drama film as a soul singer named Ossie Sands. The songs featured were recorded by Starr for the film. The film has the added attraction of being possibly the first film to include Northern Soul as a sub-plot.[5]

In late 2002, Edwin Starr appeared with many R&B stars on the "Rhythm, Love, and Soul" edition of the PBS series American Soundtrack. His performance of "25 Miles" was included on the accompanying live album that was released in 2004.

Starr remained a hero on England's northern soul circuit and moved to England in 1983, continuing to live there for the remainder of his life. He based himself in the English Midlands, living for many years at Pooley Hall at Polesworth, Warwickshire, before moving to Bramcote in Nottinghamshire[6][7]

Edwin Starr was inducted into the inaugural class of the Official Rhythm & Blues Music Hall of Fame at Cleveland State University in August 2013.

Starr was inducted into the Michigan Rock and Roll Legends Hall of Fame in 2017.[8]


Starr died on April 2, 2003, from a heart attack. He was 61.[6] He is buried at Wilford Hill Cemetery in Nottingham.[7]



  • Soul Master (1968)
  • 25 Miles (1969) (#73 US, #9 R&B)
  • Just We Two (1969) with Blinky
  • War & Peace (1970) (#52 US, #9 R&B)
  • Involved (1971) (#178 US, #45 R&B)
  • Hell Up in Harlem (Soundtrack) (1974)
  • Free to Be Myself (1975) (#210 R&B, #43 R&B)
  • Clean (1978) (#80 US, #22 R&B)
  • Happy Radio (1979) (#115 US, #44 R&B, AUS #83[9])
  • Stronger Than You Think I Am (1979) (#203 US)
  • For Sale (1983)[10][11]
  • Through the Grapevine (1990) (includes several of his mid-1980s singles)[12]
  • You Can Have It (1991)
  • Where Is the Sound (1991)


Year Single[13] Chart positions
US Pop[14] US
AUS[9] UK[16]
1965 "Agent Double-O-Soul" 21 8
"Back Street" 95 33
1966 "Stop Her on Sight (S.O.S.)" 48 9 35
"I'll Love You Forever"
The Holidays
63 7
"Headline News" 84 39
1967 "Girls Are Getting Prettier"
"You're My Mellow"
"I Want My Baby Back"
1968 "I Am The Man For You Baby"
"Way Over There"
"Stop Her on Sight (S.O.S.)" / "Headline News"
1969 "Twenty-Five Miles" 6 6 36
"I'm Still A Struggling Man" 80 27
"Oh How Happy"
Blinky & Edwin Starr
1970 "Time" 117 39
"War" 1 3 37 3
"Stop The War Now" 26 5 33
1971 "Funky Music Sho' 'Nuff Turns Me On" 64 6
1972 "Who Is The Leader of the People"
1973 "There You Go" 80 12
"You've Got My Soul on Fire" 40
1974 "Ain't It Hell Up in Harlem" 110
"Big Papa"
"Who's Right Or Wrong"
1975 "Pain" 25
"Stay With Me" 51
"Abyssinia Jones" 98 25
1976 "Accident"
1977 "I Just Wanna Do My Thing" 94
1978 "I'm So into You"
1979 "Contact" 65 13 37 6
"H.A.P.P.Y. Radio" 79 28 54 9
"It's Called The Rock"
"Tell A Star"
1980 "Stronger"
"Boop Boop"
"Get Up, Whirlpool"
1981 "Sweet"
1983 "I Wanna Take You Home"
1984 "Marvin"
1985 "It Ain't Fair" 56
1986 "Grapevine"
"Soul Singer"
1987 "Whatever Makes Our Love Grow"
1988 "Long Line of Lovers"
1989 "25 Miles '89"
1990 "She's The One"
"Ain't No Stopping Us Now"
with David Saylor
1992 "Darling Darling Baby"
1993 "War"
Edwin Starr and Shadow
1994 "Can't Stop Thinking About You"


  1. ^ Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 286. ISBN 0-214-20512-6.
  2. ^ a b Christgau, Robert (1981). "Consumer Guide '70s: S". Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies. Ticknor & Fields. ISBN 089919026X. Retrieved March 12, 2019 – via robertchristgau.com.
  3. ^ Warwick, Neil; Kutner, Jon. The Complete Book of the British Charts: Singles and Albums. Brown, Tony. Omnibus Press. p. 261. ISBN 1-84449-058-0.
  4. ^ "Retrochart for March 1990". everyHit.com. Retrieved August 25, 2015.
  5. ^ "Soul Source, "Blue Juice Review from 90s"". December 6, 1997. Retrieved February 25, 2021.
  6. ^ a b Laing, Dave (April 4, 2003). "Obituary: Edwin Starr". Theguardian.com. Retrieved December 5, 2017.
  7. ^ a b "Soul legend Edwin Starr's band and brother Angelo coming to The Night Owl in Birmingham". Birmingham Mail. July 31, 2015. Retrieved January 30, 2021.
  8. ^ "Michigan Rock and Roll Legends - EDWIN STARR". www.michiganrockandrolllegends.com. Retrieved July 9, 2019.
  9. ^ a b Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 291. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  10. ^ "Edwin Starr - For Sale (Vinyl, LP) at Discogs". Discogs.com. Retrieved August 25, 2015.
  11. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 524. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  12. ^ Edwin Starr - Through the Grapevine @Discogs.com Retrieved December 20, 2020.
  13. ^ "The Official Edwin Starr website". Edwinstarr.info. Archived from the original on August 15, 2015. Retrieved August 25, 2015.
  14. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2003). Top Pop Singles 1955–2002 (1st ed.). Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 672. ISBN 0-89820-155-1.
  15. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1996). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942–1995. Record Research. p. 418.
  16. ^ Betts, Graham (2004). Complete UK Hit Singles 1952–2004 (1st ed.). London: Collins. p. 92. ISBN 0-00-717931-6.

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