“War” was first recorded by The Temptations, but it was Starr’s version that became the most memorable and definitive due to the intensity of his performance of the song
Edwin Starr achieves to chart with Motown’s protest song “War” in 1970
One of counterculture’s best known songs, “War” was written for Motown by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong in 1969 and first recorded by The Temptations with vocalists Paul Williams and Dennis Edwards, but due to the singing style of these two singers, the intensity of the song lyrics and meaning was lost, and shortly after, Edwin Starr, who had become a Motown artist in 1968, was Motown’s choice to record the song again and was rresultingeleased as a single on June 10, 1970 backed with “He Who Picks a Rose”. Songwriter and producer Norman Whitfield re-created the song to match Starr’s James Brown-influenced soul shout, in one of the most intense songs ever to chart. On August 29, 1970 it peaked to No.1 at the U.S Hot 100 where it stayed for three weeks, an achievement for a protest songs, in particular an anti-Vietnam one, being praised by people such as John Lennon. It did became Starr’s signature song, and earned a Grammy nomination in 1971 for “War” for best R&B Male Vocal. In 1986 Bruce Springsteen’s and the E Street Band live cover of “War”, matching Starr’s version, brought the song back to the music charts worldwide. Edwin Starr’s new version of “War” released in 2003 was his final piece, shortly before the singer passed from a heart attack in that same year.
Watch Edwin Starr performing “War” in 1969
Listen to Edwin Starr’s “War”
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