War – Edwin Starr | Top 40 Chart Performance, Story and Song Meaning

Chart Performance: Pop (#1 for 3 weeks) & R&B (#3); 1970

Story Behind The Song By Ed Osborne

While recording hits such as Agent Double-O-Soul and Stop Her On Sight (S.O.S.) for Detroit’s Ric-Tic Records, Edwin Starr ran into various members of the Motown studio band known as the Funk Brothers, who secretly moonlighted for the small indie label. No doubt this made Starr’s surprising adsorption into the Motown family (Berry Gordy, Jr. had stopped his band’s extracurricular sessions by buying Ric-Tic) a bit easier. Despite his obvious talent, Berry put off recording Starr for over two years. Then, to add insult to injury, Starr’s first three singles for his new label stiffed before a five-year-old song, Twenty-Five Miles, climbed to #6 on the R&B and Pop lists in 1969. In 1970 Starr released his incendiary take on War, a Norman Whitfield/Barrett Strong tune originally recorded by the Temptations for Psychedelic Shack. With the Vietnam War in full swing, like-minded dissenters rallied behind War, boosting it to #1 and grabbing Starr a Grammy nomination for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance.

This content and all Song Meaning articles were created and written by Top 40 Contributing Editor Ed Osborne. © 2024 Ed Osborne. All Rights Reserved. In addition to these song meaning articles, Ed has written our “Year in Music 1960s-1990s” articles.

Produced by:

  • Norman Whitfield

Lyrics Written by:

  • Norman Whitfield
  • Barrett Strong