Song: “War” by Edwin Starr
Reached #1: August 29, 1970 (his first, 3 weeks)
Motown’s writing/production team of Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong wrote “War” for the Temptations.
Now, let’s be honest. Did anyone really think the Temps would release this kind of politically-charged anti-war single in 1969? Well, Whitfield and Strong did – it’s just that everyone else disagreed.
Motown realized the power of the song, though… they just had to find an artist to cover it for a single release. Edwin Starr, who came to Motown when they bought his record label, volunteered. He’d only had the one hit, “Twenty-Five Miles”, in 1968, so he must have figured it couldn’t have hurt. Starr’s version was much harder and more forceful than the Temptations’ original… which is probably why it hit #1 just a few months after that May morning in Ohio where America’s taste for war abated a bit…
As Starr guessed, the song helped his career, at least for a short while before he left Motown in the mid-‘70s. He then revitalized his career in the UK, with a re-release of “War” coming out just before his death in 2003.
So while war is good for absolutely nothing, “War” was very good for Edwin Starr.
Tomorrow… a bit of Florida disco…
Other songs that reached #1 on August 29:
1987 – “La Bamba” by Los Lobos (their first, 3 weeks)