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Edwin Starr

edwinstarr17Charles Edwin Hatcher was born in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1942. He and his cousins, soul singers Roger and Willie Hatcher, moved to Cleveland, Ohio, where they were raised.

In 1957, he formed a doo-wop group called The Future Tones and began his singing career as Edwin Starr.

Based in Detroit, Michigan in the 1960s, he recorded at first for the small Ric-Tic label, part of the Golden World recording company, and later for Motown Records (under the Gordy Records imprint), after the latter absorbed Ric-Tic in 1968.

The song which launched his career was Agent Double-O-Soul (1965), a reference to the James Bond films popular at the time.

First released in 1966 when it reached #39, then at the end of 1968, Motown decided to try again with Headline News as part of a double A-side with Stop Her On Sight (S.O.S). The plan worked and the record climbed to #11.

In 1969 and 1970, Starr was riding high on the charts with his biggest hits, Twenty-five Miles and War. The latter, a thinly-veiled indictment of America’s involvement in the Vietnam war, spent three weeks at #1 and earned the singer a Grammy Award.

By 1983, Starr – a forgotten man in his homeland – had pulled up stakes and set sail for London.

Although he had ridden the disco wave with records like H.A.P.P.Y Radio and Contact, by 1982 he was without a label and was finding it increasingly hard to eke out a living.

edwinstarr3In addition, Starr and his longtime manager, Lilian Kyle, found Motown less than forthcoming when it came to royalties. When Starr’s mother died in late 1983, he saw no reason to remain in the USA.

In 1987, Starr took part in the high-profile Ferry Aid project, recording a version of The Beatles‘ Let It Be with such British superstars as Boy George, Mark Knopfler and Kim Wilde to raise funds for victims of the March 1987 ferry disaster off the coast of Belgium.

The charity project led to a recording contract with Stock, Aitken and Waterman, the English production team. The resulting single, Whatever Makes Our Love Grow, did well in several European countries.

Starr remained a hero on England’s Northern Soul circuit and continued living in England until, on 2 April 2003, he suffered a heart attack and died while taking a bath at his home in Bramcote near Nottingham. He was 61.

He was buried in Wilford Hill Cemetery in West Bridgford, Nottingham. His headstone reads “Agent 00 Soul”.

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