Edwin Starr (January 21, 1942 - April 2, 2003) was an R&B singer and songwriter with powerful, gritty vocals who became famous beginning in the mid 1960s. Born Charles Edwin Hatcher in Nashville, Tennessee and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, he began his music career in the late 1950s and formed a doo-wop group known as The Future Tones. After serving in the military for two years, he relocated to Detroit and by the early 1960s, had signed with Ric-Tic, later joining Motown in 1968 after the legendary label purchased Ric-Tic. Starr is best known for his hard-hitting "War," a counterculture-era psychedelic soul classic co-written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong that struck a chord with the public during a time of growing protests against the Vietnam War.
Starr debuted in 1965 with the self-penned James Bond-themed "Agent Double-0-Soul," which became the first of many top hits on both the Pop/Rock and R&B charts. Other hits through the late 1960s included "Stop Her On Sight (S.O.S.)" (1966), "I'm Still A Strugglin' Man" (1969), "Twenty-Five Miles" (1969), which Starr co-wrote with Johnny Bristol and Harvey Fuqua, and the self-penned "Oh How Happy" (1969, as Blinky & Edwin Starr), the latter of which also became a hit in 1966 for The Shades Of Blue. Starr also provided the lead vocals for The Holidays' 1966 Top 10 R&B chart hit, "I'll Love You Forever."
Starr's fame soared in 1970 with "War," which topped the Pop/Rock charts and went gold shortly after its release. This iconic anti-war anthem, which has been featured in numerous movie soundtracks and TV shows over the years, was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999, and it is considered to be one of the most popular protest songs ever recorded. Later hits included "Time" (1970), "Stop The War Now" (1970), "Funky Music Sho Nuff Turns Me On" (1971), and "There You Go" (1973). Starr switched to disco during the late 1970s and had two final entries on the U.S. charts in 1979 with the self-penned "Contact" and "H.A.P.P.Y. Radio," both of which became Top 10 hits on the U.K. charts. Starr later had two more U.K. chart hits with "It Ain't Fair" (1985) and a remake of "War" (1993, as Edwin Starr & Shadow).
By the early 1980s, Starr had relocated to England where he became a favorite on the Northern Soul circuit, and he continued his long career as a performer, recording artist, and producer up to his passing in 2003. His many awards and accolades included being inducted posthumously into the Rhythm & Blues Music Hall of Fame in 2013 and the Michigan Rock & Roll Legends Hall of Fame in 2017.
- For more info on Edwin Starr's life and career, visit edwinstarr.info.
- The Guardian remembers Edwin Starr.
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- Agent Double-O-Soul 1965
- Twenty-Five Miles 1969
- War 1970
(This anti-war protest song topped the charts and later also became a hit for Bruce Springsteen (1986).)
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