4/9/18: Edwin Starr “War”

There’s an interesting story behind today’s song! It was written by Norman Whitfield, who penned some fairly edgy tunes with blatant social commentary back in the day. The Temptations recorded “War” first, but then officials with the record company — mainly Berry Gordy, Jr. — got nervous about releasing it. The song reflected a very strong and very obvious stance against the Vietnam War, and Motown was afraid that stance would alienate both potential and existing fans of The Temptations. Since the Temptations were one of the most successful artists at Motown Records, the label decided that the risk wouldn’t be worth the reward. Which is where Edwin Starr comes in.

Edwin Starr was hanging around the studio during all this, and he was what Motown considered to be a “second-tier” artist. He had only scored one major hit in “Twenty-Five Miles,” and they ended up giving him the song to see what he could do with it. He ran through it, giving it a dynamic and gritty sort of treatment, and it blew just about everybody away. They knew that something special was happening, and got some of their acts together, like The Originals and The Undisputed Truth, who provided additional instrumentation and backing vocals. The rest, as they say, is history.

“War” went all the way to #1, stayed there for a few weeks, and was named the third-best song of 1970 by Billboard Magazine. It became the highest-charting protest song of all time, and was quickly established as Edwin Starr’s signature song. I woke up hearing it this morning, and couldn’t wait to share it with you today! “WAR! HUH! WHAT IS IT GOOD FOR? ABSOLUTELY. NOTHING.” Say it again!