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Edwin Starr: “War” and “25 Miles”

The beginning of War is one of the signature musical moments of the Vietnam War era. It’s nice to learn that Edwin Starr contributed much more than that. Here is the beginning of the profile at his website:

Edwin Starr was an integral part of the soul and dance floor scene since the mid-fifties and the formation of his first band The Future Tones in 1956. He was on the road right to the end.

Born Charles Edwin Hatcher on January 21st, 1942 in Nashville, Tennessee, Edwin was raised and educated in Cleveland, Ohio. In 1962, after completing two years of military service in the USA and Germany he moved to Detroit, the automobile city. By the middle of the decade he was a member of the artistes on the up-and-coming RicTic label under Ed Wingate. Together they released one immortal Northern Soul hymn after another. Songs like “Agent 00 Soul”, S.O.S (Stop her On Sight)” and “Headline News” laid the foundations for Edwins’ continuing world-wide fame. (Continue Reading…)

War, it turns out, was recorded by The Temptations before Starr’s version. The Motown‘s timidness turned out to be the most important moment in Starr’s career:

“War” is a soul song written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong for the Motown label in 1969. Whitfield first produced the song – a blatant anti-Vietnam War protest – with The Temptations as the original vocalists. After Motown began receiving repeated requests to release “War” as a single, Whitfield re-recorded the song with Edwin Starr as the vocalist, deciding to withhold the Temptations’ version so as not to alienate their more conservative fans. (Continue Reading…)

Above is War, which has to be the lead song in any discussion of Starr. Two observations: He is wearing the greatest shirt ever made and seems very happy for a guy singing about the horrors of war. Below is 25 Miles, which is terrific. It’s clearly a relatively recent clip. The band leader is Jools Holland and this presumably is his BBC television show. Holland was a co-founder of Squeeze. Starr passed away in 2003.