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War

by

Edwin Starr



Songfacts®:  You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.

Motown hitmakers Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong wrote this song. Starr began his career recording for Ric-Tic Records, a Detroit label that was a rival to Motown. In 1968, Motown bought Ric-Tic, which gave Starr access to their writers and producers.
This is a protest song about the Vietnam War, although it makes a broader statement of the need for harmony in our everyday lives. This was one of the first Motown songs to make a political statement. The label had always been focused on making hit songs, but around this time Motown artists like The Temptations and Marvin Gaye started releasing songs with social commentary, many of which were written by Whitfield.
The Temptations were the first to record this. It was included on their 1970 album Psychedelic Shack. Motown had no intention of releasing it as a single, but many people in the protest movement, especially college students, made it clear that this would be a big hit if it was. Motown head Berry Gordy had other plans for The Temptations and didn't want them recording such a controversial song, so he had Starr record it and his version was released as a single. Starr didn't have as big a fan base to offend.
This won a Grammy for Best R&B Male Vocal.
Bruce Springsteen's version was a hit in 1986. It was the first single released from his boxed set, Live 1975-1985, and hit US #8 and UK #18. Springsteen first performed it on Sep. 27, 1985 during his Born In The U.S.A. tour. He taped the lyrics to his arm so he wouldn't screw them up.
Starr died of a heart attack in 2003. He was 61.
This was featured in the 1991 Ron Howard movie Backdraft, starring Kurt Russell. (thanks, Kim - Portland, OR)
This was also featured in the 1998 movie Rush Hour with martial arts star Jackie Chan and comedian Chris Tucker. (thanks, Regina - Chesapeake, VA)
Edwin Starr
More Edwin Starr songs
More songs written by Norman Whitfield
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Comments (22):

On December 21st 1986, "War" by Bruce Springsteen peaked at #8 (for 2 weeks) on Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart; it had entered the chart on November 16th at position #45 and spent 11 weeks on the Top 100...
It reached #4 on Billboard's Mainstream Rock Tracks chart...
Was the last of eight straight Top 10 records by the Boss...
The original charted version was by Edwin Starr; and on August 23rd, 1970 it reached #1 (for 3 weeks) on Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart.
- Barry, Sauquoit, NY
I agree with you completely, Andrew from Birmingham. War is the greatest Evil in our world. It causes nothing but suffering for all involved.
- Marty, Milwaukee, WI
It *was* the greatest nation in the world. It's declined since then, has it not? I say in no way that I'm opposed to the American Revolution, because King George III taxed w/o representation, but I still think war at that time was stupid. I count it the fault of the team of King George, mind you. The colonists were well justified in defending themselves & their rights; I don't oppose defense. But I wish nations/militaries did not pick fights w/ one another.
- Drew, B'ham, AL
What's it good for? How about the birth of the greatest nation in the world?
- Matt, Anderson, SC
Springsteen does a cover of this from his boxed set. Can't say I like the version. Too fuzzy and the electric guitars are too loud.
- Bruce, Long Branch, NJ
See also - "The Last Stop" by Dave Matthews. Both are high-energy anti-war songs... I love 'em! "The Last Stop", in particular, was once my all-time favorite song.
- Matthew, Milford, MA
Was the backing band on this Rose Royce of "Car Wash" fame?
- Kent, Lodi, CA
What's war good for? Good-for-nothing?? You tell 'em, Edwin!! I despise the very thought of tension between nations. God made us all; it horrifies me to think of people, living, breathing stuff God made, being destroyed. That's such a horrific thought!! "War can only take life away!!" I know of a very appropriate quote by Christopher Marlowe:
"Accursed be he that first invented war." You tell 'em, Christopher!! Christopher and Edwin, you two are a sensible duo!! I'd get an autograph from both of you if I could!!
- andrew, birmingham, United States
Didn't Bruce Springsteen write the lyrics of this song down on his arm when he covered it? From what I heard, he was afraid that he'd forget the lyrics.
- Matthew, Milford, MA
This was really an anthem to those of us in high school in that time frame--1969-1971. Funny how old the song is yet the lyrics fit the Iraq war to a perfectly. To Bush and Cheney--Good God ya all!
- David, Wichita, KS
Yes, war is good for absolutely nothing. Although I was ineligible for the draft at the time that this song came out (both because I was 27 years old and because I had roughed up an Oregon State Trooper in 1962 and served 180 days in jail), I was, am and always will be against all wars.
War is an enormous waste of human life, government money, oil, coal, natural gas, et al, and we need to follow the leads of Sweden and Switzerland if the USA is to survive as one nation and not break up into several independent nations.
- Darrell, Eugene
This song was origionally by The Temptations, but they didn't do much with it. Edwin Starr took the song and redid it and went all out. The Temptations made it but Edwin took all the credit.
- Brad, San Jose, CA
This is one of those few recordings that is so good, that anyone trying to remake it comes off looking silly, including Bruce Springsteen.
- Steve, Fenton, MO
Claire, I think the song Sinead sang was also called War, but I believe it was a Bob Marley song.
- Erin, Reading, PA
Bruce Springsteen's live version is, you should pardon the pun, killer! From the opening monologue: "If you grew up in the Sixties......" which is more topical than ever. "...blind faith in your leaders, or in anything, will get you killed!" The guitar work is also masterful.
- Robert, Puyallup, WA
Featured in the soundtrack for the game 'Battlefield Vietnam'
- Martin, sydney, Australia
I believe that, from what I've been told, "War" was originally to be sung by Earth, Wind, and Fire but considered to controversial so given to Edwin Starr.
- Whitney, Clare, MI
"War" was also recorded by Frankie Goes To Hollywood, on the album "Welcome To The Pleasure Dome", which also contains the hit "Relax".
- Emmanuel, Paris, France
Isn't this the same song Sinead O'Connor sang when she ripped up Pope John Paul's picture and ruined her career?
- claire, Oak Ridge, TN
This song was also featured in the 1991 Ron Howard movie Backdraft, starring Kurt Russell

http://www.dvdfever.co.uk/reviews/backdraf.shtml
- Kim, Portland, OR
this was also on boy meets world cory and topanga do karoke and they sing this
- Caitlin, sailsbury, NC
This song featured in an episode of Seinfield called "The Marine Biologist" (the one when George pretends to a potential girlfriend that he is a marine biologist). Jerry tricks Elaine into thinking that the original title to Tolstoy's "War and Peace" was "War - what is it good for?". The episode aired on Feruary 10, 1994.
- Kruse, Wellington, New Zealand
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