Soul singer Edwin Starr, who topped the charts in 1970 with his
fiery, iconic, anti-war song “War,” died of a heart attack
yesterday at his home in Nottingham, England; he was sixty-one.
Starr was born Charles Hatcher on January 21, 1942 in Nashville,
and he started his first band, the Future Tones, as a teenager. He
did a two-year stint in the army between 1960 and 1962 before
moving to Detroit. A music manager there heard his voice and told
Hatcher he would be a star. He added an “R” to that description,
took on his middle name Edwin, and his stage name was born.
Starr began recording in the mid-Sixties for the Detroit label
Ric-Tic Records, and scored his first pop hit, “Agent Double-O
Soul,” in 1965, which reached as high as Number Twenty-one.
“Twenty-five Miles,” released five years later would reach as high
as Number Six.
But it was “War,” delivered in Starr’s rough, staccato bursts of
singing for which he was best known. The single was released in
July 1970 and spent thirteen weeks on the charts, three at Number
One. Vietnam would provide Starr with his next, and last, hit,
“Stop the War Now,” in January of the following year. He continued
to fare well on the R&B charts in the Seventies, though his
successes in the U.S. would never match the early portion of the
In 1983, he relocated to England where he continued to be well
received. Two years later, “War” was resurrected by Bruce
Springsteen, who included a cover of the song on his Live
1975-1985 box set, and released it as a single with
accompanying video. Springsteen revisited the song last month,
launching his Australian tour with a cover version in response to
U.S. military action against Iraq.