War traces its roots back to a Californian high school band formed by bass player and keyboard player BB Dickerson, drummer Harold Brown, woodwind player and pianist Charles Miller and bassist/trumpet player Howard Scott.
The band split up but re-formed in 1968 as The Nite Shift, and were seen at a party in LA in 1969 by Eric Burdon of The Animals. Burdon was looking for a new group and teamed up with the band which became known as War.
War mixed rock, jazz, and soul influences into a spicy stew throughout the 70s, resulting in a series of R&B and pop hits sporting funky melodies and politically aware messages.
After two albums, Eric Burdon Declares War and Black Man’s Burdon, and a US hit (Spill The Wine), Burdon and the band went their separate ways.
Continuing as an independent outfit, the seven-piece band signed with United Artists in 1971 and enjoyed its first smash the next year with Slippin’ into Darkness. Tapping into a sizzling, horn-fuelled rock/soul synthesis, The World Is a Ghetto, The Cisco Kid and Why Can’t We Be Friends? all went gold during the mid-70’s.
The World Is a Ghetto (1972) was the album which finally revealed War at their full potential. While the title suggested an overt political statement, Howard Miller’s cover design captured the album’s lighthearted vibe – a Rolls Royce stuck in the ghetto with a flat tyre.
Even the lyrics of the title track offered an optimistic message of love emerging from the overpowering city smog.
Despite numerous personnel and label changes, War remained eminent throughout the 80s. In the early ’90s, they experienced a revival, partially due to the fact that all of their albums were reissued.
But the group was also acknowledged as a primary influence on contemporary R&B and hip-hop and released a new album in 1994 to capitalise on their new-found popularity.
Keyboards, woodwind, saxophone
Bass, guitar, trumpet
Papa Dee Allen