The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

2 April 2003

Good God, y'all

Edwin Starr, who achieved his greatest success growling "War! Unnnh...What is it good for?", has died at the age of 61.

Starr, born Charles Hatcher in Nashville in 1942, was one of the biggest acts on Detroit's tiny Ric-Tic label, with hits like "Agent Double-O-Soul" and "S.O.S. (Stop Her on Sight)", powered by moonlighting members of Motown's Funk Brothers house band. When Motown bought out Ric-Tic and the rest of Ed Wingate's family of labels, Starr moved to Gordy, where he continued to have hits, notably "Twenty-Five Miles" and the epic "War". In the late Seventies, he scored with dance numbers, and eventually, like so many American R&B acts, he found greater success in Britain.

"War", issued on Gordy 7101 in 1970, spent three weeks at #1; Starr's vocal and Norman Whitfield's Wall of Damn Near Everything production made this one of the truly unforgettable records of Motown's pre-funk period. "It had no responsibility for ending the war in Vietnam," noted rock writer Dave Marsh — certainly no more than, say, Freda Payne's "Bring the Boys Home" — but its status as cultural icon seems assured. And what is your record collection, or at least mine, worth without it? Absolutely nothing.

Say it again.

Posted at 6:11 PM to Tongue and Groove

The song went on to be a prominent part of the Jackie Chan - Chris Rock movie, Rush Hour.

I wonder what song carried that burden in the sequel?

Posted by: Kevin McGehee at 6:30 PM on 2 April 2003

Better song: "Contact" (see: Disco, circa 1978)

I've never cared for the War song...banal, moronic, etc. OTOH, there was an episode of "Seinfeld" in which "War" played a role, so it's not *all* bad.

Posted by: DavidMSC at 7:22 AM on 3 April 2003

I've always preferred "Twenty-Five Miles", and the one-off he wrote and produced for the Shades of Blue, "Oh How Happy".

Springsteen has an interesting live version of "War" which, at least in this area, hasn't been played to death lately.

Posted by: CGHill at 8:00 AM on 3 April 2003

You beat 'em by hours. KRXO's morning DJs were talking about his death this morning.

You could have one-upped them completely had you posted a link to his music. :)

Posted by: Steve at 9:40 PM on 3 April 2003

I read the same wire services they do. It's just that the Gods of Radio have decreed that all non-time-and-temperature talk on music stations shall occur during the morning show, because one station that did that in the early 80s actually got a 12 share for one book.

Posted by: CGHill at 6:52 AM on 4 April 2003