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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)
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