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Original members include Papa Dee Allen (born July 19, 1931; died of a brain aneurysm, 1989), vocals and percussion; Harold Brown, (born March 17, 1946; left band, 1983; rejoined, 1993) vocals and percussion; B. B. Dickerson (born August 3, 1949; left band, 1979); Jerry Goldstein, cowriter and producer; Lonnie Jordan (born November 21, 1948), vocals and keyboards; Charles Miller (born June 21, 1939; died, 1980; left band, 1979), flute and saxophone; Lee Oskar (born March 24, 1948, in Copenhagen, Denmark; left group, 1993), harmonica; Peter Rosen (died of a drug overdose, early 1960s); Howard Scott (born March 15, 1946), vocals and guitar. Later members include Kerry Campbell (joined band, 1994), saxophone; Charles Green (joined band, 1994), saxophone; Ron Hammon (joined band, 1978), drums; Tetsuya "Tex" Nakamura (joined band, 1994), harp and harmonica; Sal Rodriguez (joined band, 1994), percussion; Tweed Smith (bandmember 1982-83), vocals; Rae Valentine (born Harold Rae Brown, Jr.; son of bandmember Harold Brown; joined band, 1994), keyboards. Addresses: Publicist--Sandy Friedman, Rogers & Cowan, 10000 Santa Monica Blvd., #400, Los Angeles, CA 90069. Record company--Avenue Records, 11100 Santa Monica Blvd., Suite 2000, Los Angeles, CA 90025.
War, a nine-member, Los Angeles-based group noted throughout the 1970s for their fusion of rock, Latin jazz, funk, and rhythm and blues, released their first major label album, Peace Sign, in June of 1994 after a 13-year recording hiatus. Hip-hop music and rap samples of War's material from the 1970s revived an interest in the group in the 1990s, as did brief snippets of War's music heard briefly on film soundtracks and on television commercials. War's most sampled hit songs are "Why Can't We Be Friends?," "The World Is a Ghetto," "Low Rider," and "Cisco Kid."
Although War occasionally toured clubs and festivals during the 1980s and early 1990s, recording an album proved difficult because the band struggled with the loss of many of its original members. War is comprised of Kerry Campbell (saxophone), Sal Rodriguez (percussion), Tetsuya "Tex" Nakamura (harmonica), Charles Green (saxophone), Rae Valentine (keyboards), Lonnie Jordan (keyboards, bass, vocals), Howard Scott (guitar, vocals), Ron Hammon (drums, vocals), and Harold Brown (drums, vocals). Founding member Lee Oskar left the band in December of 1993--after 24 years with the group--and was replaced by harmonica player Tetsuya "Tex" Nakamura, a blues harpist from Japan. Original band member Papa Dee Allen collapsed on stage while playing "Gypsy Man" during a concert in 1989 and died shortly thereafter of a brain aneurysm; founding band member Charles Miller left the band in 1979.
Remaining original War bandmembers include guitarist Howard Scott, drummer Harold Brown, drummer Ron Hammon (who joined in 1978), and keyboard player Lonnie Jordan. Percussionist Sal Rodriguez played in the bands Tierra and El Chicano before joining. War keyboardist Rae Valentine is Harold Brown's son, a legacy Brown passed on to the next generation of War enthusiasts. Brown left the band from 1983 to 1993.
In 1962 original War members Scott and Brown formed a rhythm and blues cover band called the Creators and eventually added Jordan, Dickerson, and Miller. The Creators often opened for Ike and Tina Turner when they played in Los Angeles. The Creators were forced to dissolve when guitarist Scott was drafted; he was called for military duty in the mid-1960s for two years. When Scott returned to Los Angeles after his tour of duty, the Creators reunited briefly.
In 1968 Scott, Brown, Miller, and Jordan formed a new band called the Night Shift. Producer and songwriter Jerry Goldstein heard the band play during one of their rehearsals and decided the band would complement the vocal style of Eric Burdon, formerly of the Animals. The Night Shift became War in early 1969. The name "War" was chosen for the band to offset the fact that the word "peace" was bandied about constantly in pop culture.
Burdon liked the band and decided to tour with them in 1969. Their first concert was at the Devonshire Pop Festival, a three-day event in the Los Angeles area that attracted 100,000 people. Eric Burdon and War followed Credence Clearwater at the festival. Burdon and War released an album in 1970 titled Eric Burdon Declares "War." The gold-selling album reached Number 18 on the music charts and its single "Spill the Wine" reached Number Three. War played Ronnie Scott's London jazz club in 1970 with Jimi Hendrix--Hendrix's last concert before his death. Hendrix and War played the Memphis Slim song "Mother Earth" together. War recorded three albums with Eric Burdon in 1970 and 1971, one of which was not released for five years. Love Is All Around was recorded in 1971 and released in 1976.
In 1971 War and Eric Burdon divided to become solo acts. The move was prompted by an experience War band members had with Burdon. In 1970 Burdon vanished in the middle of a European tour, and War was forced to appear without him, hoping audience members at concerts wouldn't demand refunds. War's solo shows sold out, much to their delight, and the band knew they would be well received on their own.
War's breakthrough album, All Day Music, which sold almost two million copies and reached Number 16 on the Billboard pop music chart, was released in 1971. Two of the album's singles became Top 40 hits: "All Day Music" and "Slippin' Into Darkness." In 1972 War released The World Is a Ghetto. This album became the best-selling album of 1973. The singles "Cisco Kid" and "The World Is a Ghetto" both went gold, and War was established as a major musical force. The double album War Live was released in 1974, featuring the Top 40 single "Ballero." From 1975 to 1981 War released seven more albums, including Why Can't We Be Friends?, each meeting with acclaim and enthusiastic response.
Avenue Records CEO Jerry Goldstein is credited with having urged War back into the recording realm. War's cowriter since the band's inception, Goldstein produced all of the band's major hits in the 1970s and then gained possession of the band's copyrights and masters in the mid-1980s. Avenue Records reissued much of War's back catalog on CD in the 1990s, which fueled a renewed interest in the band. The fact that War was sampled so liberally by the rap and hip-hop community in the 1990s create mixed feelings for War's bandmembers, who alternately felt flattered and robbed. War bandmember Howard Scott told Billboard's Jon Cummings, "Instead of suing, we decided to do that record and make peace with the rap community."
Avenue Records released a compilation record in 1992 titled Rap Declares War, which featured War bandmembers with the rap musicians who had sampled their music. Some of the War-struck rappers on the album included De La Soul, Poor Righteous Teachers, Brand Nubian, Nice 'N Smooth, Beastie Boys, Ice-T, Wreckx-N-Effect, Kid Frost, and 2Pac. This album cemented War's tie-in with the hip-hop and rap community and highlighted how much the band had in common with the musicians who had sampled War's music.
In its early days, War drew its flavor from South Central Los Angeles. South Central also inspired a lion's share of later rappers, such as N.W.A. and Ice-T. War's message, however, is decidedly different than that of the "gangsta" rappers from the same environment. Anger, urban violence, and despair are replaced with optimism, understanding, peace, and hope in War's music. The band provides positive messages, as evidenced in the singles "Peace Sign," "What If," and "Let Me Tell Ya." "Instead of throwing up gang signs, we're throwing up peace signs," Scott told Cummings.
War aims to be multifaceted and to provide varying formats for its music. The band is equal parts Latino, black, and white, so War hopes to be able to appeal to a wide range of listeners. Vibe magazine's Richard Torres described War and its music as "user-friendly funk for the '90s ... light on the feet and easy on the hips," and "a laid-back groove factory with a conscience." Jazz, rhythm and blues, rock, and Latin melodies are frequently combined in War's songs to create a distinctive multilayered sound, slightly reminiscent of each style.
After a 13-year absense from the recording studio, War released Peace Sign in 1994--the band's eighteenth major label album--produced by Jerry Goldstein and War band member Lonnie Jordan. The single "East L.A." is a West Coast version of Ben E. King's "Spanish Harlem" with Jose Feliciano contributing vocals. Some of the album's singles are beautiful ballads, others are reminiscent of War's previous hits in the 1970s, and others reveal experimentation and an unbridled, fresh approach to their music.
War released Peace Sign in 1994 because the band still has much to say about American society. In "Homeless Hero" on Peace Sign, War sings about a Vietnam War veteran who grapples with drugs, alcohol, and a society that no longer finds him useful. War's Harold Brown told Goldmine's Steve Roeser "We're more 'street.'... We're more ground-zero, more ground level. We're the kind of guys who can go into south Los Angeles or go to the projects or the barrio ... and every day that we live ... it's because of music."
by B. Kimberly Taylor
Group formed as the Creators, Los Angeles, 1960; re-formed as the Night Shift, 1968; re-formed again as War with Eric Burdon, 1969; released first albums with Burdon on MGM, 1970; released first solo album, War, on United Artists, 1971; released 12 albums, including one more with Burdon, 1970s; released three more albums, early 1980s; returned with Rap Declares War, Avenue, 1992.
- Selective Works
- As the Creators Little Johnny Hamilton and the Creators, Dore Records, 1965.
- With Eric Burdon Eric Burdon Declares War (includes "Spill The Wine"), MGM, 1970.
- The Black Man's Burdon, MGM, 1970.
- Love Is All Around, ABC, 1976.
- Without Eric Burdon War, United Artists, 1971.
- All Day Music, Far Out/UA, 1971.
- The World Is a Ghetto, Far Out/UA, 1972.
- Deliver the Word, UA, 1973.
- Radio Free War, UA, 1973.
- War Live, Far Out/UA, 1974.
- Why Can't We Be Friends?, Far Out/UA, 1975.
- War's Greatest Hits, Far Out/UA, 1977.
- Platinum Jazz, Blue Note, 1977.
- Galaxy, MCA, 1977.
- Youngblood (soundtrack), UA, 1978.
- The Music Band, MCA, 1978.
- The Music Band, Part 2, MCA, 1979.
- Best of the Music Band, MCA, 1981.
- Outlaw, RCA, 1982.
- Life Is So Strange, RCA, 1983.
- The Best of War ... And More, Avenue, 1987.
- Rap Declares War, Avenue, 1992.
- War, Avenue, 1992.
- Peace Sign, Avenue/Rhino, 1994.
- Anthology 1970-1994, Avenue, 1994.
- Billboard, June 14, 1994.
- Goldmine, September 2, 1994.
- Vibe, August 1994.
- Additional information for this profile was provided by Avenue Records publicity materials.
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