War (American band)  

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"The first side of the most unambitious album they've ever made works beautifully as what it is—P-Funk on thorazine."--Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies (1981) by Robert Christgau

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

War was a American band known for the hit songs "Galaxy", "Low Rider", "Spill the Wine" and "Why Can't We Be Friends?". Formed in 1969, War was the first and most successful musical crossover, fusing elements of rock, funk, jazz, Latin music, R&B, and even reggae. The band also transcended racial and cultural barriers with a multi-ethnic line-up. The band's diverse musical influences have made it an enduring influence, one that has sold nearly 25 million records to date. Although War's lyrics are often socio-political in nature, their music usually had a laid-back, California funk vibe.



In 1962, the foundation of the band was laid when Howard E. Scott, George "Ghee" Brown and Harold Brown formed a group called the Creators in Long Beach, California. Within a few years, they had added Charles Miller, B.B. Dickerson and Lonnie Jordan to the lineup. Lee Oskar and Papa Dee Allen later joined as well. They all shared a love of diverse styles of music, which they had absorbed living in the racially-mixed Los Angeles ghettos. The Creators recorded several singles on Dore Records while working with Jay Contreli, a saxophonist from the band Love. In 1968, the Creators became Nightshift (named because Brown worked nights at a steel yard) and started performing with Deacon Jones, a football player and singer.

The original War was the brainchild of record producer Jerry Goldstein ("My Boyfriend's Back," "Hang on Sloopy," "I Want Candy") and rocker Eric Burdon (ex-lead singer of the top British band the Animals). Goldstein saw musicians who would eventually become War playing at the Rag Doll in North Hollywood, backing Deacon Jones, and he was attracted to the band's fresh authentic sound. The year was 1969, and the band had the nerve to carry the name War at a time when peace was the slogan in an anti-Vietnam War America. Founder and singer/keyboardist Lonnie Jordan claimed that the band's goal was to spread a message of brotherhood and harmony, using instruments and voices to speak out against racism, hunger, gangs, crimes, and turf wars, and promote hope and the spirit of brotherhood. Eric Burdon & War began playing live shows to audiences throughout Southern California before entering into the studio to record their debut album Eric Burdon Declares "War". The album's key track, the erotic, spaced-out, Latin-flavored "Spill the Wine", was a hit and launched the band's career.


Burdon and War toured extensively across Europe and the United States, garnering rave reviews from mainstream and music press alike. England's New Musical Express called War "the best live band I ever saw" after their first UK gig in London's Hyde Park. Musicians on both sides of the ocean were buzzing about this new band. A second Burdon and War album, a two-disc set, The Black-Man's Burdon, was released in 1970, before an exhausted and volatile Burdon left the band in the middle of its European tour. Already starting to assert themselves, War finished the tour without him and returned to record an album.

The result was War's 1971 self-titled debut. While this album met with only modest success, it laid the groundwork for things to come. Later that year, the band released All Day Music, which included the hit singles "All Day Music" and "Slippin' into Darkness." In 1972 the band's sound was refined and deepened with the release of The World Is a Ghetto; a gritty, celebratory, and reflective album which established War at the forefront of funk and brown-eyed soul. Its first single, "The Cisco Kid," shipped gold and brought the band a following in the Hispanic community that has remained loyal to the group to this day. The thought-provoking title song fueled the album's rise to the number one spot on Billboard and was voted Billboard's Album of the Year.

The next album, the slightly less gritty Deliver The Word (1973), contained the hits "Gypsy Man," and a re-recording of "Me And Baby Brother". This album proved a real challenge for the band since the pressure of their previous hits and a lack of focus made concentration difficult. Despite these conditions, the album went on to sell nearly two million copies. It was 1975 when the Why Can't We Be Friends? album was released. It included "Low Rider", the universal lowrider anthem, and the satirical title track, a half-joking but irresistibly soulful tune that both praised and poked fun at overly-positive utopian funk songs.

Exhausted from a their touring schedule, the band took a year long hiatus from recording, but did release a greatest hits record which contained one new song, "Summer." With its easy flowing style the single went gold and earned them even more success, peaking at number 7 on the Billboard chart. However, the emerging disco craze began to threaten the popularity of War's gritty and socially aware funk rock. Disco, with its programmed beats, slick production, and superficial lyrics, dominated the music scene; the unconstructed and free form street music that defined War was clearly not in vogue. Still, the group managed to attain success with the album Galaxy and its sleek, danceable title single. "Galaxy was inspired by Star Wars and just fit into the vibe of the time," Goldstein remembers. War's next project, coincidentally, would be a soundtrack album for the movie Youngblood in 1978.

Later years

Although War would never rekindle the level of prosperity that was reached in the mid-’70s, it continued to record music, releasing the albums The Music Band (1979), The Music Band 2 (1980), and Outlaw (1982). The singles "Outlaw," "You Got The Power," and "Cinco De Mayo" were warmly embraced by War fans. During the ’80s, War began to focus more on touring than recording. In the beginning it was difficult, with small crowds, bad venues and low pay, but the band persevered. "It was the spirit of survival and the belief we few remaining original members had in our music that carried us forward," reflects original member Lonnie Jordan.

The band's popularity has grown steadily ever since, as a result of increased television appearances; use of their music in film, television and advertising; and samples and versions by other recording artists. Sampling of War by hip hop artists was prevalent enough to merit the compilation album Rap Declares War in 1992, which was sanctioned by the band and intended in part to demonstrate their ongoing influence as well as introduce them to a younger audience. This rather enlightened understanding of the sampling art and its promotional potential stood in contrast to the many lawsuits launched by other artists over sampling at the time. In 1994 the release of Peace Sign, an album well received by critics and fans, reinvigorated War's presence in the music scene. War now tours over 150 dates a year, in venues ranging from tens of thousands to a few dozen. The band has also twice been honored by its hometown of Los Angeles, over a span of twenty years, for the positive contributions its music has made to the community.

The only original member in War's current lineup is Lonnie Jordan (keyboards). The largest group of the remaining members formed their own group, called the Lowrider Band. It consists of the other four surviving original core group members of War: Howard E. Scott, B.B. Dickerson, Lee Oskar, and Harold Brown (Charles Miller was murdered in 1980 and Papa Dee Allen died of a heart attack in 1988). These members lost the right in court to use and tour under the name War. That name is a registered trademark owned by Far Out Productions.[1]

In 2004 they released the compilation The Very Best of War. On Friday 8th February 2008, it was announced that Eric Burdon & War would reunite for the first time in 37 years to perform a one-time-only concert at the London Royal Albert Hall on Monday 21st April 2008. The reunion was actually only between Eric Burdon and Lonnie Jordan, as the other original surviving members had not been asked to be a part of the reunion. The rare reunion concert coincided with Avenue/Rhino Records' major Eric Burdon and War reissues campaign that included the re-release of the two 1970 albums 'Eric Burdon Declares War' and 'The Black-Man's Burdon'. The final re-releases in the campaign are entitled 'The Best of Eric Burdon and War' and 'The War Anthology'. Jerry Goldstein's Far Out Productions and Avenue Records own War's entire recorded output which is licensed to Rhino Records. War has been nominated for possible 2009 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Burdon will join them for a tour in summer 2009.

Later members

  • Sandro Alberto - Guitar, vocals (1996-1998)
  • James "Zota" Baker - Guitar, vocals (1998-2002)
  • Kerry Campbell- Saxophone (1993-1996)
  • JB Eckl - Guitar, vocals (1994-1996)
  • Charles Green - Flute, saxophone (1993-1995)
  • Ricky Green - Bass, vocals (1984-1989)
  • Ronnie Hammon - Drums, percussion (1979-1996)
  • Fernando Harkles - Saxophone (1996-Present)
  • Kenny Hudson - Percussion (1997-1998)
  • Mitch Kashmar - Vocals, harmonica (2006-Present)
  • Richard Marcos - Drums, percussion (1996-1997)
  • Tetsuya "Tex" Nakamura - Harmonica, vocals (1993-2006)
  • Donald Phillips - Bass, vocals (2001-2003)
  • Luther Rabb - Bass, vocals (1979-1984)
  • Marcos Reyes - Percussion (1998-Present)
  • Pat Rizzo - Flute, Saxophone, vocals (1979-1983)
  • Sal Rodriguez - Drums, Percussion, vocals (1990-1991, 1992-1996, 1997-Present)
  • Alice "Tweed" Smith - vocals(1979-1981)
  • Francisco "Pancho" Tomaselli - Bass, vocals(2003-Present)
  • Rae Valentine - Percussion, Keyboards, vocals(1993-2001)
  • Stewart Ziff - Guitar, vocals (2002-Present)


Studio albums

Live albums


  • 1976: Greatest Hits (includes one new track)
  • 1982: The Best of the Music Band
  • 1987: The Best of War... and More (includes two new tracks and a remix)
  • 1996: The Best of Eric Burdon and War
  • 1996: Anthology (1970–1994) (double album)
  • 1999: Grooves and Messages (double album, half compilation, half remixes)
  • 2003: The Very Best of War (double album, similar to Anthology)

Related albums

  • (year unknown): The Other Side of War Warms Your Heart (double LP, credited to War and apparently includes Brown, Dickerson and Jordan, possibly not an official release)
  • 1992: Rap Declares War (various artists, with sampling taken from War)
  • 1997: War Stories (solo album by Lonnie Jordan, includes cover versions of six songs previously recorded by War)


This is a list of their USA singles; additional singles were issued in other countries.

Year Titles Label From the album
1970 "Spill the Wine" MGM Eric Burdon Declares "War" (Eric Burdon and War)
"Magic Mountain" non-album track
1970 "They Can't Take Away Our Music" MGM The Black-Man's Burdon (Eric Burdon and War)
"Home Cookin'"
1971 "Lonely Feelin'" United Artists War
"Sun Oh Son"
1971 "All Day Music" United Artists All Day Music
"Get Down"
1971 "Slippin' Into Darkness" United Artists All Day Music
"Nappy Head"
1972 "The World Is a Ghetto" United Artists The World Is a Ghetto
"Four Cornered Room"
1973 "The Cisco Kid" United Artists The World Is a Ghetto
"Beetles in the Bog"
1973 "Gypsy Man" United Artists Deliver the Word
"Deliver the Word"
1973 "Me and Baby Brother" United Artists Deliver the Word
"In Your Eyes"
1974 "Ballero" United Artists War Live
"Slippin' Into Darkness"
1975 "Why Can't We Be Friends?" United Artists Why Can't We Be Friends?
"In Mazatlan"
1975 "Low Rider" United Artists Why Can't We Be Friends?
1976 "Summer" United Artists Greatest Hits
"All Day Music" All Day Music
1977 "Magic Mountain" ABC B-side from 1970
"Home Dream" Guilty (1971, Eric Burdon and Jimmy Witherspoon)
both tracks also on Love Is All Around
(War featuring Eric Burdon)
1977 "L.A. Sunshine" Blue Note Platinum Jazz
"Slowly We Walk Together"
1977 "Galaxy" MCA Galaxy
"Galaxy (part 2)"
1978 "Hey Señorita" MCA Galaxy
"Street Fighting Lady"
1978 "Youngblood (Livin' in the Streets)" United Artists Youngblood (soundtrack)
"Youngblood (Livin' in the Streets) (part 2)"
1978 "Sing a Happy Song" United Artists Youngblood (soundtrack)
"This Funky Music Makes You Feel Good"
1979 "Good, Good Feelin'" MCA The Music Band
"Baby Face (She Said Do Do Do Do)" Galaxy
1979 "I'm the One Who Understands" MCA The Music Band
"Corns and Callouses (Hey Dr. Shoals)"
1979 "Don't Take It Away" MCA The Music Band 2
"The Music Band 2 (We are the Music Band)"
1980 "I'll Be Around" MCA The Music Band 2
"The Music Band 2 (We are the Music Band)"
1981 "Cinco de Mayo" LA Outlaw
"Don't Let No One Get You Down" Why Can't We Be Friends?
1982 "You Got the Power" RCA Victor Outlaw
"Cinco de Mayo"
1982 "Outlaw" RCA Victor Outlaw
"I'm About Somebody"
1982 "Just Because" RCA Victor Outlaw
"The Jungle (medley)"
1983 "Life (is So Strange)" RCA Victor Life (is So Strange)
"W.W. III"
1994 "Peace Sign" (12–inch single with 4 mixes) Avenue Image:Peace symbol.svg (Peace Sign)


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