War (originally called Eric Burdon and War) is an American funk band from California, known for the hit songs « Low Rider », « Spill the Wine », « Summer », « Why Can’t We Be Friends? », « The Cisco Kid », and « The World Is a Ghetto ». Formed in 1969, War was a musical crossover band which fused elements of rock, funk, jazz, Latin, rhythm and blues, and reggae. The band also transcended racial and cultural barriers with a multi-ethnic line-up. War was also subject to many line-up changes over the course of its formation, leaving member Leroy « Lonnie » Jordan as the only original member in the current line-up.
Although War’s lyrics are often socio-political in nature, their music usually had a laid-back, California funk vibe. A particular feature of War’s sound is the use of harmonica and saxophone playing melody lines in unison, sounding like a single instrument, for example in the melody of « Low Rider ». The music has been sampled and recorded by many singers and groups, ranging from R&B/pop singers such as Janet Jackson to nu metal band Korn and hip hop groups like TLC and A$AP Mob.
Contributions to music:
– Their 1975 hit « Lowrider » has become an anthem of sorts for the Latino custom car community
– One of the era’s finest funk bands
– Merged funk with Latin music to create a potent cultural hybrid
– A leading voice of musical protest in the early Seventies
– Harmonica player Lee Oskar is considered one of the instrument’s great innovators
War began with founding members Harold Brown and Harold E. Scott’s creation of a high-school R&B cover/jamband called, ironically enough, the Creators. By 1968, with most of the original members off to Vietnam, the Creators became Nightshift, and got a job backing L.A. Rams tackle Deacon Jones at a local club. It was here where they met veteran record producer Jerry Goldstein, who renamed them War (for shock purposes) and got them a gig backing ex-Animals singer Eric Burdon on his next solo project. With him, Burdon had brought Danish harmonica player Lee Oskar, later to become an integral part of the septet’s sound.
The result was 1970’s « Spill The Wine, » a major hit that spotlighted the group’s Afro-Cuban groove. After another Burdon album that failed due to poor distribution, War regrouped as a standalone act, and their second album (released in 1972) yielded two hits: « All Day Music » and the harrowing tale of insanity « Slippin’ Into Darkness. » Their next album, The World Is A Ghetto, cemented their rep as sociopolitical funk players with the flavor of their native Los Angeles slums. Disco, however, soon appeared to pave the way for a more streamlined form of dance music, which gradually ate away at the band’s popularity.
The band soldiered on in the R&B market, however, despite the loss of Papa Dee Allen to an onstage brain aneurysm and the murder of Charles Miller in 1980. Their dwindling success led to several members decamping by the mid-80s; as their legend grew, the band reunited for the somewhat successful 1994 album Peace Sign. Today, manager Goldstein retains the right’s to the group’s name, with only keyboardist Jordan remaining; the remaining four members formed the Lowrider Band. Both groups continue to tour and occasionally record today.