War is a highly acclaimed and veteran funk band that became famous during the early and mid 1970s. In addition to making extensive use of Latin and jazz elements, the band also incorporates R&B, soul, blues, psychedelia, reggae, pop, and rock into its gritty, highly eclectic sound. War's best known songs include the trippy and mostly spoken "Spill The Wine" (1970, with Eric Burdon), the somber, socially conscious "The World Is A Ghetto" (1972), the plucky "The Cisco Kid" (1973), the cheery "Why Can't We Be Friends?" (1975), the swaggering "Low Rider" (1975), and the breezy, laid-back "Summer" (1976).
Formed in 1969 in Long Beach, California, the original lineup consisted of Leroy "Lonnie" Jordan (keyboards), Harold Ray Brown (drums), Morris "B.B." Dickerson (bass), Lee Oskar (harmonica), Howard E. Scott (guitar), saxophonist/flutist Charles Miller (June 2, 1939 - June 4, 1980), and percussionist Thomas "Papa Dee" Allen (July 18, 1931 - August 30, 1988), who all shared vocals. The band was assembled by producer Jerry Goldstein who had discovered some of its soon-to-be members performing at a Los Angeles-area nightclub, and he brought them to the attention of ex-Animals lead singer Eric Burdon. They began playing live shows throughout Southern California before releasing their debut album, "Eric Burdon Declares War" (1970), which includes "Spill The Wine," the smash that launched them to international stardom. The band toured extensively across Europe and the U.S. and released a second album, "The Black-Man's Burdon" (1970), before Burdon was forced to leave in the middle of a European tour after collapsing on stage during a concert due to an asthma attack. War finished out the tour without him and soon after released its eponymous 1971 album, the first of many recordings following Burdon's departure.
Eric Burdon & War debuted on the charts in 1970 with "Spill The Wine," which reached #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and soon after went gold. This smash, which was co-written by Burdon and members of War, was followed by several minor hits before War had their first charting song without Burdon in 1971 with "Lonely Feelin'," an R&B Top 40 hit. War's fame began taking off later that year with "All Day Music" (1971), the first in a long string of top hits on both the Pop/Rock and R&B charts, all co-written mainly by War band members, that also included "Slippin' Into Darkness" (1972), "The World Is A Ghetto" (1972), "The Cisco Kid" (1973), "Gypsy Man" (1973), "Me And Baby Brother" (1973), the instrumental "Ballero" (1974), "Why Can't We Be Friends?" (1975), "Low Rider" (1975), which topped the R&B charts, and "Summer" (1976), which topped the Adult Contemporary chart. Other hits included "L.A. Sunshine" (1977), "Galaxy" (1978), an instrumental cover of The Rascals "Groovin" (1985), and a remake of "Low Rider" (1987). The band's final charting song came in 1994 on the R&B charts with "Peace Sign." Other well known songs by War include their live version with Eric Burdon of The Rolling Stones' "Paint It Black" and a cover of the Beatles' "A Day In The Life," both of which are included in the compilation album, "Love Is All Around" (1976).
At the height of the band's commercial fame during the 1970s, War had six songs that went gold and eleven albums with either gold or platinum certification that include "The World Is A Ghetto," the best selling album of 1973 which also topped both the Billboard 200 and Hot R&B albums charts that year, plus "Deliver The Word" (1973), "War Live" (1973), and "Why Can't We Be Friends?" (1975), which topped the R&B albums charts soon after their respective releases. War has continued to perform and record to the present day, with many personnel changes over the years beginning in 1979 when B.B. Dickerson left the band, followed in 1994 by Harold Brown, Lee Oskar, and Howard Scott. Charles Miller, who provided the memorable deep lead vocals for "Low Rider," was fatally stabbed in 1980 during a street robbery, and his murder remains unsolved. Papa Dee Allen died on stage in 1988 of a brain aneurysm. Brown, Dickerson, Oskar, and Scott later formed Lowrider Band in the late 1990s, which has remained active to the present day. Lonnie Jordan, War's current lead singer, is the band's only remaining original member. Eric Burdon and Jordan reunited in 2008 as War to perform a concert at London's Royal Albert Hall.
- For more info about the history of War and the band's current projects, visit war.com.
- For more info about former War members Harold Brown, B.B. Dickerson, Lee Oskar, and Howard Scott, visit lowriderband.com.
- The Music's Over remembers War percussionist Thomas "Papa Dee" Allen.
- Find A Grave remembers War saxophonist, flutist, and "Low Rider" lead singer Charles Miller.
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Eric Burdon And War
- Spill The Wine 1970
(This song later also became a hit for the Isley Brothers (1971).)
- All Day Music 1971
- Ballero 1974
- The Cisco Kid 1973
- Gypsy Man 1973
- Low Rider 1975
- Me And Baby Brother 1973
- Slippin' Into Darkness 1972
- Why Can't We Be Friends? 1975
- The World Is A Ghetto 1972
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