War (Edwin Starr song)

This article is about the Edwin Starr song, for other uses, see War (disambiguation).
{{Infobox Single | Name = War | Cover = Edwin-starr-war-single-1970.jpg | Artist = Edwin Starr | from Album = War & Peace | Released = June 9, 1970 | Format = 7" single | Recorded = Hitsville USA (Studio A); spring 1970 | Genre = Psychedelic soul | Length = 3:28 | Label = Gordy
Gordy 7101 | Writer = Norman Whitfield
Barrett Strong | Producer = Norman Whitfield | Reviews = *Andrew Hamilton, ''All Music Guide'' [http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=33:yravqo1uoj6a~T001 link] | Last single = "Time"
1970 | This single = "'''War'''"
1970 | Next single = "Stop The War Now"
1970 }} "'''War'''" is a [[soul music|soul]] song written by [[Norman Whitfield]] and [[Barrett Strong]] for the [[Motown]] label in 1969. Whitfield produced the song, a blatant [[Opposition to the Vietnam War|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. Starr's version of "War" was a number-one hit on the ''[[Billboard]]'' [[Billboard Hot 100|Hot 100]] chart in 1970, and is not only the most successful and well-known record of his career, but is also one of the most popular [[protest song]]s ever recorded. Its power was reasserted when [[Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band]] took their rendition into the Top 10 in 1986. ==Temptations' version and release debate== The Temptations' version of "War", featuring [[Paul Williams (The Temptations)|Paul Williams]] and [[Dennis Edwards]] on lead vocals, was much less intense than the hit version more familiar today. Williams and Edwards deliver the song's anti-war, pro-peace message over a stripped-down instrumental track, with [[basso|bass singer]] [[Melvin Franklin]] chanting a repeated [[boot camp]]-like "hup, two, three, four" in the background during the verses. The song was included as a track on the March 1970 ''[[Psychedelic Shack (album)|Psychedelic Shack]]'' album, which featured [[Psychedelic Shack (song)|the title track]] as its only single. The track's direct message, summarized by its chorus ("War, what is it good for? Absolutely nothin'!"), struck a nerve with the [[United States|American]] public, many of whom protested the war in Vietnam. Fans from across the nation, many of them [[college]] students and other young people, sent letters to Motown requesting the release of "War" as a single. The label didn't want to risk the image of its most popular male group, and the Temptations themselves were also apprehensive about releasing such a potentially controversial song as a single. The label decided to withhold "War"'s release as a single, a decision that Whitfield fought until the label came up with a compromise: "War" would be released, but it would have to be re-recorded with a different act. ==Edwin Starr version== Edwin Starr, who had become a Motown artist in 1968 after his former label, Ric-Tic, was purchased by Motown founder [[Berry Gordy, Jr.]], became "War's" new vocalist. Considered among Motown's "second-string" acts, Starr had only one major hit, 1968's number-six hit "Twenty-Five Miles", to his name by this time. He heard about the conflict surrounding the debate of whether or not to release "War," and volunteered to re-record it. Whitfield re-created the song to match Starr's [[James Brown (musician)|James Brown]]-influenced soul shout: the single version of "War" was dramatic and intense, depicting the general anger and distaste the [[antiwar movement]] felt towards the war in Vietnam. Unlike the Temptations' original, Starr's "War" was a full-scale Whitfield production, with prominent [[electric guitar]] lines, [[clavinet]]s, a heavily syncopated rhythm accented by a [[horn section]], and with Whitfield's new act [[The Undisputed Truth]] on backing vocals. Upon its release in June 1970, Starr's "War" became a runaway hit, and held the number-one position on the ''[[Billboard magazine|Billboard]]'' Pop Singles chart for three weeks, in August and September 1970. It replaced "Make It With You" by [[Bread (band)|Bread]], and was replaced by another Motown single, "[[Ain't No Mountain High Enough]]" by [[Diana Ross]]. Notable as the most successful protest song to become a pop hit, earning compliments from contemporary protester John Lennon, "War" became Edwin Starr's signature song. Rather than hinder his career (as it might have done for the Temptations), "War" buoyed Starr's career, and he adopted the image of an outspoken [[Liberalism|liberal]] orator for many of his other early-1970s releases, including the similarly-themed "Stop the War Now" from 1971. It and another 1971 single, "Funky Music Sho Nuff Turns Me On," continued Starr's string of Whitfield-produced psychedelic soul hits. After 1971, Starr's career began to falter, and, citing Motown's reliance on formulas, he departed the label in the mid-1970s. Later in his career, after moving to the [[United Kingdom]], Starr re-recorded several of his hits with British band [[Utah Saints]]. Starr's new version of "War" in 2003 was his final piece; he died on [[April 2]] of the same year of a [[myocardial infarction|heart attack]]. Interestingly, his death came 13 days after the start of the still-controversial [[Iraq War]], which has drawn endless comparisons to the Vietnam War. In 1999, Edwin Starr's "War" was inducted into the [[Grammy Hall of Fame]]. ===Chart position=== *#1 (US Pop Singles)

Starr bought an extensive country house, Pooley Hall, on the outskirts of Polesworth in Warwickshire. Pooley Hall was built by Thomas Cockayne between 1506 and 1509 on the site of a much older house. It has an embattled tower with a stair turret, and is built of red brick with stone mullions and quoins. Though it is a highly unlikely story, there are said to be secret passages connecting Pooley Hall to Polesworth Abbey.It overlooks the Coventry canal and has its own landing stage.

Bruce Springsteen version

"War" was performed in concert by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band in 1985, added to the set list for the final few shows of their lengthy Born in the U.S.A. Tour. Springsteen and his manager Jon Landau were looking for a way to make these concluding shows, taking place at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, a little different and special, and Landau suggested playing "War". A year earlier, he had suggested the same, as a loose protest against Reagan Administration foreign policy in Central America and elsewhere, but the band had been unable to come up with an effective arrangement. This time, however, they did. Springsteen taped the words of the song to his arm, prefaced the song with a spoken admonition not to blindly trust the government, leaders or anything else, and then he and the band blasted their way through a hard rock rendition, featuring a strong vocal from Springsteen and laced with Nils Lofgren's fluid yet fiery guitar work.

Springsteen released the September 30, 1985 performance as a part of his 1986 box set, Live/1975-85. "War" was chosen as the first single from the set, and it was again a big hit, reaching #8 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The music video for the single was a straight concert filming of the same performance.

Springsteen continued to perform "War" regularly through his 1988 Tunnel of Love Express and Human Rights Now! Tours. He then retired it, until again performing it on his 2003 Rising Tour before and during the start of the Iraq War.

Chart position

Other versions

"War" was covered by The Jam in 1982. A studio version featured as one of three extra tracks on the Just Who Is the 5 O'Clock Hero?, The Bitterest Pill (I Ever Had to Swallow), Beat Surrender 12" singles. It was also a live favourite.

"War" was covered by influential Canadian punk band D.O.A. on their 1982 12" EP War On 45.

"War" was covered by Frankie Goes to Hollywood on the 12-inch of their 1984 hit single "Two Tribes", and was included on the album Welcome to the Pleasuredome.

The trash-punk band Mace covered it on their 1987 album "The Evil in Good".

An episode of the television series Xena: Warrior Princess, "Lyre Lyre Hearts on Fire", includes a cover of "War".

"War" was remixed by Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, along with Henry Rollins, Tom Morello, and Flea, for the soundtrack to the film Small Soldiers. The song features new raps by Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, and a spoken word section by Rollins, while the chorus features the original vocal track by Starr.

Slovenian band Laibach included a cover of "War" on their 1994 album NATO. This version answers the question "War, what is it good for?" by listing what, in Laibach's opinion, war is good for: for example, science, religion, IBM, CNN, and various other large multi-national companies.

In February 2007, the Stop the War Coalition released a single of the song, attributed to Ugly Rumours — the rock band formed by former UK prime minister Tony Blair at Oxford University during the 1970s. The song reached no 6 in the UK music charts. The accompanying video featured a Blair look-alike as lead singer, and appearances by George Galloway and Lauren Booth as police officers arresting Blair.

Rock band Pearl Jam has covered parts of the song in the breakdown of their own song 'Daughter'.

Blues singer Maria Muldaur covered the song on her 2008 album, Yes We Can.


Edwin Starr version

Temptations version

Popular culture

  • In Mock the Week in the "If this is the answer, what is the question round?" The answer is "Gunrunners,Bombers and Murderers" Frankie Boyle says "War, What is it good for?"
  • In the Seinfeld episode The Marine Biologist, Jerry plays a prank on Elaine by telling her that Leo Tolstoy's book War and Peace was originally titled War, What Is It Good For? When Elaine tells her boss Mr. Lippman this, she embarrasses herself and angers the visiting Russian author Testikov.
  • In the Da Ali G Show episode "Law", Ali G's opening statement is "War, What Is It Good For?"
  • In Rush Hour, Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker sing the song. The song is again used for the trailer to its immediate sequel Rush Hour 2. It is then repeated at the end of Rush Hour 3. In the DVD commentary for Rush Hour 3, director Brett Ratner states how he considers "War" the unofficial theme song of the "Rush Hour" trilogy.
  • An episode of British sitcom Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps is named "War, Hurrgh!" and also features some characters singing the song.
  • In the show Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Quark says, "War! What is it good for? If you ask me, absolutely nothing."
  • In the movie Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London the boys of the international youth orchestra improvise this song at the G7 meeting.
  • In episode 19 "Big Shots" of season 3 of Everybody Loves Raymond Ray and Robert sing the song after a visit to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
  • In the game Civilization IV the citizens of a society become frustrated if a war goes on too long. If a city in a war-weary society is examined, the citizens say, "War...What is it good for? Absolutely nothing!...Unh!"
  • In the Discworld novel Thud!, Sgt Colon says to Cpl Nobby Nobbs "War, Nobby, huh, what is it good for?" to which Nobby replies "Well...for rising up and overthrowing violent oppressors for one thing."
  • On an episode of Jeopardy, the categories made reference to the song lyrics, they were; "War", "What is it Good For?", "Absolutely Nothing" and "Say it Again".
  • The Edwin Starr version has been heavily sampled in hip hop music.
  • Starrs' version featured in an episode of Boy Meets World, in which Cory and Topanga sing the song in a karaoke contest.
  • The Edwin Starr version appears in the soundtrack to Battlefield Vietnam
  • In Saturday Night Takeaway Ant vs Dec The Teams the walk on music was the Edwin Starr version of the song.
  • The song is played under contradictory video images in the blaxploitation parody I'm Gonna Git You Sucka (1:10:06) when the heroes arm up to go to war with Mr. Big.
  • In the episode "_2005.E2.80.932006" (Boston Legal Series 2, Episode 2) Tara Wilson and ex-boyfriend Malcolm Holmes represent Johnny Damon, Edwin Starr's nephew, in his bid to be allowed to perform the hit War as part of his act. The club owner's support for the US in Iraq leads him to prevent Damon from performing the anti-war song.
  • In the Sam & Max game Abe Lincoln Must Die!, there is a parody of the song near the end of the game, sung by secret service agents. The parody lyrics include the phrases "War! What is it good for? It's good for you and me!" and "War! What is it good for? It strengthens the economy."
  • In the computer game Afterlife, the ultimate punishment for wrath is called "War (What Is It Good For?)".
  • In the Simpsons episode Treehouse of Horror VIII of The Simpsons, after the neutron bomb is dropped on Springfield, Homer goes into the church and plays the song after he realizes he is the last man in the town.
  • The CBS television drama, Family Law, used the song as its opening title theme.
  • The Australian TV series Bastard Boys used the song.
  • The Edwin Starr version plays in a portion of the trailers for the Ben Stiller film Tropic Thunder.
  • The Edwin Starr version plays in the 2004 movie Guy X, starring Jason Biggs.

External links

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