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#ThrowbackThursday: Edwin Starr “War”

By Sean Smith

On Tuesday night President Obama made a prime time television address where he made his case to the American people for a possible military strike against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. This in response to Assad’s use of chemical weapons in an attack against his own people on August 21st.

Yesterday our nation solemnly remembered the tragic morning twelve years ago when terrorist attacks on American soil shook us to our core, and ultimately led to the still ongoing war in Afghanistan.

With the thoughts of possible military action and war being on the forefront of the nation’s collective consciousness this week, I thought it appropriate to profile a song relevant to this topic for this week’s edition of #ThrowbackThursday here at Clizbeats.

In 1970 the anti-Vietnam war anthem “War,” as performed by Edwin Starr, topped the Billboard Pop/Singles chart for three weeks. However, Starr was not the first artist to vocalize the strong anti-war sentiment expressed in the song’s lyrics.

“War” was originally recorded by The Temptations and was released on the Motown album Psychedelic Shack in March of 1970. The song was not released as a single from that album, but many fans of the song’s strong anti-war message wrote letters to Motown Records in an attempt to get them to release “War” as an official single. The powers that be at Motown were understandably weary of releasing the song as a Temptations offering. After all, the country was still deeply divided over our involvement in Vietnam and feared that releasing “War” as a Temptations song could possibly alienate some of the more conservative fans of the popular group.

In an effort to capitalize on the song’s appeal to the growing anti-war crowd, but at the same time wanting to protect The Temptations from any potential backlash, Motown decided to give the song to another Motown artist, Edwin Starr, and the song was released as his single in June of 1970. The song went on to top the Billboard Pop/Singles chart for three weeks and to this day is considered by many to be one of the more prolific anti-war songs in American musical history.

But Edwin Starr was not the last artist to re-record “War” and have it chart in the United States. At the end of Bruce Springsteen’s “Born In The USA Tour” in 1985, the singer recorded a live version of the song during a show in Los Angeles. The recording would later become the first single off of Springsteen’s 1986 live album titled, Live/1975-85 and reached the eighth spot on the Billboard Hot 100 charts.

For those of you who may not be old enough to remember the versions of “War” offered by Starr or Springsteen, you may know the song thanks to its inclusion in the 1998 comedic film Rush Hour where Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker belted out a memorable karaoke style version of the song.

So without further ado, I give you this week’s #ThrowbackThursday offering “War” as performed and made famous by Edwin Starr. Enjoy!

Edwin Starr

“War” (1970)

From: War & Peace

Gordy/Motown Records

Bruce Springsteen

“War” (1986)

From: Live/1975-85

Columbia Records

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