Why War should be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

by Carl Wiser

War was one of 9 bands nominated for 5 spots in the 24th class of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The other nominees were Jeff Beck (already in with The Yardbirds), Chic, Wanda Jackson, Little Anthony and the Imperials, Metallica, Run-D.M.C., The Stooges and Bobby Womack. Chosen were Womack, Beck, Little Anthony, Run-D.M.C. and Metallica. Nothing against these guys, but War should have made it.
War is an under-appreciated California Funk group that is a vital part of American music history. You know their songs "Low Rider," "Spill The Wine" and "Why Can't We Be Friends?," and you've heard them sampled by Janet Jackson, Ice-T, Beastie Boys, De la Soul, Portishead and many others.

You don't know much about them because they don't have a high-profile lead singer or a Behind The Music tabloid tale. Legal issues have kept them out of the spotlight, and they have a confusing name.

The most dynamic and talented members of the creative community were drawn to War. Jimi Hendrix played with them at Ronnie Scott's in London on the night he died. Bob Marley loved them, as they were what he called "Street Musicians." ("Get Up, Stand Up" is based on the War song "Slippin' Into Darkness"). It's music to expand your mind and help you along your personal journey, but it was made by a bunch of regular guys who were worried about getting drafted and paying their bills. They weren't spoiled and self-indulgent, so they didn't get a lot of media attention. While many of their good friends passed on, War stayed here on Earth because they were grounded.

Before they were War they were Nite Shift, because drummer Harold Brown worked at a steel yard at night. They became the first black band to play the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles, and drew the attention of some heavy hitters in the industry. Their quest for exemplary musicians led them to two white guys: Danish harmonica player Lee Oskar and Animals lead singer Eric Burdon. This lineup, renamed "War with Eric Burdon," made "Spill The Wine," a trippy celebration of women ("Long ones, tall ones, short ones, brown ones...") that came together when they spilled some wine on a mixing console. There is still nothing else like it.

Maybe if Jimi Hendrix had lived, War would already be in the Rock Hall. His death was especially hard for Eric Burdon, who left the band after just two albums. The loss of Burdon's star power made it a lot harder to market the band, but it led them to come together as a group. Without Burdon, they created some of their best music, a unique sound fusing Latin with Jazz, Rock and R&B. The slow Funk of "Low Rider" was a departure from the Disco that was coming around. It put a sound to the Low Rider culture, which is based on modified cars that can bounce on hydraulic lifts. While the Hot Rodders were interested in speed (and had The Beach Boys singing for them), the Low Riders were about style. The lyrics, "Take a little trip" and "Rides a little higher" gave the impression that this was a drug song, but most Low Riders had jobs as machinists or mechanics and put their money into the cars. The song is about the pride that comes from riding around in your baby. It puts you in the driver's seat.

While touring Japan in the early '70s, the band realized that people are more alike inside than we are on the outside. Communicating through body language gave them the idea for the brilliant "Why Can't We Be Friends?", a song of unity that succinctly sums up the absurdity of judging others based on our differences.

Other hits include "The World Is A Ghetto," which also addresses how we're all alike despite our differences, and "The Cisco Kid," which is based on a '50s TV show about a Mexican cowboy.

In the mid-'90s, their producer Jerry Goldstein went to court and won the rights to the name War. Under Goldstein's guidance, the band that now tours as War contains just one original member: keyboard player Lonnie Jordan. The other four original living members perform as The Lowrider Band.

War should be in the Rock Hall because they made outstanding music that has stood the test of time. They brought people together through music. Maybe an induction will bring them back together as well.

November 16, 2009
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Comments: 31

  • Jay Dunbar from Los AngelesI agree 100%. They were together with Santana one of the very first bands that did Soul, Latin, Funk, Jazz fusion, and they had amazing hits after Burdon, as well as with Burdon. Their style extended much beyond Santana with their flute, harmonica, lyrics, and other exquisite use of instruments. Some of their many hits:

    Spill the wine
    Cisco Kid
    They can't take away our music (again relevant in today's world, if you don't know it, listen to it a few times)
    Low Rider
    Their Medley of "paint it black" on the Blackman's Burdon LP is a total classic
    The world is a ghetto
    Why can't we be friends
    The Blackman's Burdon LP is the one of the most creative LP's I have heard

    It's a huge oversight of the RR Hall of Fame
  • Wendell from Los Angeles, Ca War is a major omission from Hall of Fame. As well as Detroit Spinners. Let's get it right!
  • Willjr from MacktownA damn shame they are not in. As musicians, the only soul/r&b bands that were close to them was EWF and the JB's. It's hard to take the hof seriously when a band as great as War is not in. Please right this wrong asap!
  • Mike Flores from San Fernando CaYou can ask people around the world about War ,and more people probably no more about them and there music then alot of groups in the Hall of fame, thouse who think they shouldn't be in should wonder how a group can play for over forty years and not be in.
    WAKE UP PEOPLE
  • Xochitl Garcia from Rancho Cucamonga Let the real WAR members in the Rock and Roll Hall of fame, Howard Scott, BB Dickers. Harold Brown and Lee Oscar
  • Michael Drouin from St-georges, Quebec.caTobacco road is still playing somewhere up in my mind...
    I was living on 69 westbrook street in Hartford by that time
    Went to Powder Ridge festival, everything was alright...till the Cop came
    Got arrested for:
    Breach of Peace
    False identification and
    Narcotic possession...a joint?
    Went to jail
    And they sent me back to Canada...illegal worker
  • Hhblx from Orange County, California, UsaThanks for writing this short piece on War. I love them but never bothered to learn anything about them. Of course they should have been chosen for the R&R Hall of Fame.

    On the other hand does getting into the R&R Hall of Fame really make a lot of difference to those who ARE chosen? Maybe it does. But I never bought a song or a ticket because I knew the band was in the Hall of Fame. And now that I merely subscribe to a music service rather than buying music directly, I still don't make any choices based on Hall of Fame status. People hear a song and like (or don't like it).

    And on another hand War was already in MY personal Hall of Fame. And there they shall remain.

  • Rodney Jackson from MiamiFor a time in the early 70's when they were headlining areas no band could compare to War. There are many bands in the Hall of Fame that we're opening acts for them. War should be in the Hall of Fame.
  • George M from NyThey are a unique band with a gritty sound. They deserve to be in!
  • Terry from Ny.nyWar should be in the hall of fame great musical band with such greats hits through out the 1970s very underrated group
  • Elaine from NycThis should have happened long ago.
  • Joe Pecaric from Ancaster Ontario CanadaSuch a unique group whose music is timeless and classic. They belong in the Hall Now!
  • Caryn Brown Kantor from New York - Nassau CountyIt's simple--induct WAR
  • Joe Pecaric from Ancaster Ontario CanadaAlways loved War a great band that belongs in the Hall. Never to be forgotten.
  • Patti Peoples from Indianapolis, InI cannot believe there's a controversy about whether Lowriders belong in the Hall of Fame. I'm guessing a whole lot of vets would say that the group formerly known as WAR got them through some long lonely days in Vietnam. While our guys were gone away from us here at home, some of us were trying to get through those same long lonely days listening to the same songs. These guys are unique
    as are others listed above. Lowrider's got my vote !
  • Joe Mendoza from El Paso,texasI loved WAR's music it helped me get through the 70's through the 90's. Their music is world renowned. Put them in the Hall of Fame.
  • Sonny Jackson from DowneyWe in the neighborhood took tremendous pride in watching them soar, from Compton, Jefties, and to the world....bring Howard Scott, and the original members back...it would do a lot for Compton, and Long Beach...no disrespect but ALL MY FRIENDS ARE LOW RIDERS...
  • Mr Funky Medina from El Monte CaliforniaA big AMEN to that.
  • Wayne M from Queens,nyI have been vexed by this decision. I was very young with older siblings in the 70's but love the music that the original band WAR. I believe that the voting group may have never heard of or never bothered to listen to their music, and feel their vibe is a shortcoming on their part. This year NWA is being nominated for what I don't know(no offense Dr. Dre), Green Day, come on give me a break. Don't know if there music will ever be lasting enough to be the theme to TV shows or in numerous moves, nut WAR's music is. I want a recount!
  • T Paolo from PittsburghIf War is not in the Hall of Fame then close the darn thing! It's a farce. Is induction becoming a popularity contest with all the objectivity of a high school newspaper? They were THE perfect blend of R&B and Funk for a generation. I'm sure you remember the two camps of the late 60's and 70's who almost had to choose sides between Rock and Roll and R&B . It was the band War that appealed to both from the beginning.
  • Russell I grew up listening to War. Saw them live once in Hampton N. H of all places. They have their own sound that sings to the soul. The War Live album is the best, it captures their collective talents. Screw the corporate side of things, War isn't about that. They sang about injustice and human suffering. They showed us how to "Get Down". They are champions and allstars in many hearts. RIP to Papa D. Allen and brother Charles Miller.
  • Jim from BolingbrookThe rrhof is a joke! The fact that Deep Purple out and Hall and Oats in says it all!
    If any band should be in, it's WAR!
    All of them! Lowrider Band and Lonnie
  • Jose Gutierrez from PhoenixSo, Slowly We Walk Together, Four Cornered Room, Smile Happy, City Country City, Beetles In The Bog, Galaxy, Outlaw, the HITS are endless! Truly a group of musicians who's music is TIMELESS! For them NOT to be in the RRHOF because of an unscrupulous producer is criminal! My wish is for Lonnie Jordan to wake up from whatever misguided fog he's under and reunite with his musical brethren so that they can ALL reap from the greatness they've created together! RIP, Papa Dee Allen and Charles Miller!
  • Jerseyman from HackensackI was in Omaha and saw WAR twice but the second time in 1975 was special. People talked about that concert for years. The original ensemble was ahead of its time fusing those different styles effectively. People under rate their entire albums including their lesser entries. I actually liked their first album entitled "War" where they introduced their talent. check out Fidel's Fantasy, Son oh Sun and Vibeka.Too me they produced 5 great albums: All Day Music, Deliver the Word, Why Can't We Be Friends, War Live (yes) and the inimitable the World Is a Ghetto. Good Albums include Platinum Jazz, and Outlaw and a classic single or two like "Summer" . Its simply mind boggling that War, one of the great American bands is not in the Hall of Fame. I've also had the opportunity to see the original 7 twice and various mutations of the band 1982- 2002 about 11 more times.
  • Warqueen from The Left Turn At AlbuquerqueThe original artists of WAR, should have been inducted years ago, but with Jerry Golddigger legalities, who knows if it will ever come to pass. These gentlemen have created some of music's most timeless and iconic music and have been robbed of their name, recognition and propers, while others have lived off the fame of their hard work and originality for far too long. It's wrong, and I thank you Carl Wiser for "delivering the word", and letting WAR fans know the truth. 3 fingers and a smile, OG WAR style!
  • Sandra from New York, NyThis is a tricky one. I am a huge original WAR fan and would love to see them in the RRHOF But....don't see that ever happening. WAR as it exists today consists of Jerry Goldstein & Lonnie Jordan so to induct WAR into the RRHOF would exclude the original line up (Howard Scott, Lee Oskar, B.B. Dickerson, Harold Brown)and those guys are more worthy than Goldstein or Jordan of being inducted.
  • Coldnebraskanite from Utica, Nebraska"The World Is A Ghetto" was the #1 Billboard LP of the Year for either 1972, 1973 or 1974 (I think it was 1973). That, in itself shows that they were more than just a hum-drum wannabe. I was in (of all places) a Pizza Hut in York, Nebraska (Pop. about 8,000), and they had a '70's Funk & soul tape playing. One of the songs was "Slipping Into Darkness." It still sounds fresh.
  • Melissa from Wolf Creek, OrThe name makes me lok the other way, I don't believe that war is necessary so- on the other hand I love the music Low- Rider is my brothers favorite song Him and his impalla (LOL) your right they have a very original sound and the music is good/ I never knew the band was named war though. I have studied projection for awhile now so I shun away from negetive info, I will think about how to get the positive structure for peace but I wont read about a negative war experience that to close to negativity for a projectionist. Point being with the good music they have maybe they should add anti- in there somewhere, the word is to controversial in times like this maybe. Sometimes being low profile and using the music is more benaficial if ya know it in your heart that your music is that good, maybe it stays low and steady to avoid a counter reaction of being under the spotlight to much losing the originality and emphasis it does carry, With 4 original band members acting as The lowRiders now, it seems that that name would be credited due to The original name not caring its members, the wrong musicians would be credited except for Lonnie, Kinda a way crazy deal.
  • Ionman from Lake TahoeI just pulled a friend "out of the Darkness" There is Magic in the spirit of their music.
    Yes these guys get my vote too.
  • LordhelpsTheir second album, All Day Music,
    is a classic, featuring the title track and for me the entire album. Yes, put them in the Hall of Fame!
  • AnonymousA former girlfriend of mine actually met War (and drove them from the airport straight to a gig) and they were the nicest bunch of guys she'd ever met.
    That they are really, truely nice folks should get them in.
    Also, they're really good.
see more comments

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