Sunday, November 23, 2014

Edwin Starr, "War" (1970)

July 25, 1970, #1 (3 wks.)

Easy enough to make fun of this now as a type of buffoonery, the Motown label making its way in an era of mandatory relevance. My own favorite joke comes from Seinfeld, when Jerry tricked Elaine into thinking that Leo Tolstoy originally wanted War, What Is it Good For? to be the title for War and Peace. Setting aside the peacenik impulses of the time, and the times themselves for that matter, full of Vietnam, injustice, and frustration—there's no good in going there at this point, except to remind people that's the way it was. But I have to say I have often been impressed all over again by the titanic force of this little decaying time capsule. The song was written by Barrett Strong and Norman Whitfield, and the production is full-on Whitfield Motown psychedelia. I have loved it in its time, later on oldies radio (to which I know I listened too much), and finally most recently for this little exercise. If "War" and Edwin Starr's too-close veering toward a cartoon Scooby Doo persona in the vocal can quickly stale, it never quite stops sounding fresh either. The attack positively clobbers, opening on the chorus big after the feint of a prolonged drum roll. And I mean BIG. It is immediately all over it. ALL. OVER. IT. Yes, arguably it settles too soon into the chug-a-chug of the main body of the song, and yes, the glories of the chorus wear thin from prolonged exposure. But this song always retains its power to please again. If you don't like it now, try it again in another six months. It's going to get you one of these times. Play loud.

1 comment:

  1. A stunning original and an early 45 that I absolutely wore out but it hasn't aged well for me and not sure why? The sentiment seems no less relevant or refreshingly straight-forward now than it did then. And it's certainly one of the crowning achievements of Motown psychadelia. It might just come down to the Stairway-Freebird syndrome. I've hit some sort of limit for hearing one song in one lifetime. Good one, though.