War is an American funk band from California, known for the hit songs "Low Rider", "Spill the Wine" and "Why Can't We Be Friends?". Formed in 1969, War was the first and most successful musical crossover, fusing elements of rock, funk, jazz, Latin music, R&B, and even reggae. The band also transcended racial and cultural barriers with a multi-ethnic line-up. The band has sold over 50 million records to date. Although War's lyrics are often socio-political in nature, their music usually had a laid-back, California funk vibe. The music has been sampled and recorded by many singers and groups, ranging from Janet Jackson to Korn to TLC.
The original War was the brainchild of veteran record producer Jerry Goldstein ("My Boyfriend's Back," "Hang on Sloopy," "I Want Candy") and rock legend Eric Burdon (ex-lead singer of the top British band the Animals). "I first saw some of the guys who would eventually become War playing at the Rag Doll in North Hollywood, backing Deacon Jones, the pro football player, and knew immediately how potent these kids were," Goldstein said of his first exposure to the group. "I was friends with Eric and he was ready to throw in the towel on the music scene and return to Newcastle. He was tired of the 'rock' thing and desperate for a fresh authentic sound. I called him the morning after I first saw the band and made him return to the club the next night with me. Lee Oskar was so blown away by what he had heard that he jumped on stage to jam with them. The guys were so sheltered, that they hadn't even heard of Eric or The Animals. I had them in the studio within a week, and the rest is history!"
The year was 1969, and the band had the nerve to carry the name War at a time when peace was the slogan in an anti-Vietnam War America. "Our mission was to spread a message of brotherhood and harmony," states founder and singer/keyboardist Lonnie Jordan. "Our instruments and voices became our weapons of choice and the songs our ammunition. We spoke out against racism, hunger, gangs, crimes, and turf wars, as we embraced all people with hope and the spirit of brotherhood. It's just as apropos today."
Eric Burdon & War began playing live shows and immediately found themselves in front of sold-out audiences throughout Southern California before entering into the studio to record their debut album Eric Burdon Declares "War". The album's key track, the erotic, spaced-out, Latin-flavored "Spill the Wine", was an immediate worldwide hit and launched the band's career.
A second Burdon and War album, a two-disc set, The Black-Man's Burdon, was released in 1970, before an exhausted and volatile Burdon left the band in the middle of its European tour. Already starting to assert themselves, War finished the tour without him and returned to record an album.
The result was War's 1971 self-titled debut. While this album met with only modest success, it laid the groundwork for things to come. Later that year, the band released All Day Music, which included the hit singles "All Day Music" and "Slippin' into Darkness." In 1972 the band's sound was refined and deepened with the release of The World Is a Ghetto; a gritty, celebratory, and reflective album which established War at the forefront of funk and brown-eyed soul. Its first single, "The Cisco Kid," shipped gold and brought the band a following in the Hispanic community that has remained loyal to the group to this day. The thought-provoking title song fueled the album's rise to the number one spot on Billboard and was voted Billboard's Album of the Year.
The next album, the slightly less gritty Deliver The Word (1973), contained the hits "Gypsy Man," and a re-recording of "Me And Baby Brother". This album proved a real challenge for the band since the pressure of their previous hits and a lack of focus made concentration difficult. Despite these conditions, the album went on to sell nearly two million copies. It was 1975 when the Why Can't We Be Friends? album was released. It included "Low Rider", the universal lowrider anthem, and the satirical title track, a half-joking but irresistibly soulful tune that both applauded and laughed at overly-positive utopian funk songs.
Exhausted from a non-stop schedule, the band took a year long hiatus from recording, but did release a greatest hits record which contained one new song, "Summer." With its easy flowing style the single went gold and earned them even more success, peaking at number 7 on the Billboard chart. However, the emerging disco craze began to threaten the popularity of War's gritty and socially aware funk rock. Disco, with its programmed beats, slick production, and superficial lyrics, dominated the music scene; the unconstructed and free form street music that defined War was clearly not in vogue. Still, the group managed to attain success with the album Galaxy and its sleek, danceable title single. "Galaxy was inspired by Star Wars and just fit into the vibe of the time," Goldstein remembers. War's next project, coincidentally, would be a soundtrack album for the movie Youngblood in 1978.
The band's popularity has grown steadily ever since, as a result of increased television appearances; use of their music in film, television and advertising; and samples and versions by other recording artists. Sampling of War by hip hop artists was prevalent enough to merit the compilation album Rap Declares War in 1992, which was sanctioned by the band and intended in part to demonstrate their ongoing influence as well as introduce them to a younger audience. This rather enlightened understanding of the sampling art and its promotional potential stood in contrast to the many lawsuits launched by other artists over sampling at the time. In 1994 the release of Peace Sign, an album well received by critics and fans, reinvigorated War's presence in the music scene. War now tours over 150 dates a year, in venues ranging from tens of thousands to a few dozen.
The band has also twice been honored by its hometown of Los Angeles, over a span of twenty years, for the positive contributions its music has made to the community.
The only original member in War's current lineup is Lonnie Jordan (keyboards). The largest group of the remaining members formed their own group, called the Lowrider Band. It consists of the other four surviving original core group members of War: Howard E. Scott, B.B. Dickerson, Lee Oskar, and Harold Brown (Charles Miller was murdered in 1980 and Papa Dee Allen died of a heart attack in 1988). These members lost the right in court to use and tour under the name War. That name is a registered trademark owned by Far Out Productions.
On Friday 8th February 2008, it was announced that Eric Burdon & War would reunite for the first time in 37 years to perform a one-time-only concert at the London Royal Albert Hall on Monday 21st April 2008. The reunion was actually only between Eric Burdon and Lonnie Jordan, as the other original surviving members had not been asked to be a part of the reunion.
The rare reunion concert coincided with Avenue/Rhino Records' major Eric Burdon and War reissues campaign that included the re-release of the two 1970 albums 'Eric Burdon Declares War' and 'The Black-Man's Burdon'. The final re-releases in the campaign are entitled 'The Best of Eric Burdon and War' and 'The War Anthology'.
Jerry Goldstein's Far Out Productions and Avenue Records own War's entire recorded output which is licensed to Rhino Records.
War has been nominated for possible 2009 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
Burdon will join them for a tour in summer 2009.