100 Greatest Songs of the 70’s #80 Edwin Starr – War

Released : 1970

It isn’t hard to understand why Edwin Starr’s version of what was originally earmarked to be a Temptations song resonated so much with the American public. Released in June 1970, War not only landed in a country fatigued by the human cost of a seemingly unwinnable conflict but still in shock from the events at Kent State University the previous month, where National Guard officers had opened fire on unarmed civilians during a peace protest, killing four of them.

With gritty, soulful vocals and backed with a staccato, hard punching brass section, Starr’s rendition took the song to places Tamla Motown’s Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong felt the Temptations couldn’t, given their hard fought and won pop credentials. Starr himself had been discovered making hits at Detroit’s Ric-Ric label, of which Berry Gordy’s behemoth now purchased for a million dollars in 1968 after several episodes of their own musicians moonlighting for their rivals.

A military veteran himself who was demobbed from the army in 1962, Starr (Born Charles Hatcher in Nashville twenty years previously) took War to the top of the charts domestically. Following that up however proved difficult and he left Motown and then America for Britain in 1983 where he remained a popular figure on the Northern Soul scene and eventually wound up living in Nottingham, a place where the only nearby jungle was a concrete one.

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