Edwin Starr’s hard energetic and passionate soul album War & Peace was released on January 1st 1970 as anti-war protesters were gaining ground in the US and the disaster of Vietnam was on everybody’s lips. The Norman Whitfield/Barrett Strong song, War became an an enormous hit, but not till later that year.
Originally the song was written for The Temptations but Berry Gordy, Motown boss thought the song was too controversial for them and wouldn’t release it as a single, although they did record it on their 1970 album Pyschedelic Shack (released in March, two months after the Edwin Starr release). Finally, it was decided to release the Edwin Starr version as a single in June 1970. The song went to No. 1 on the US chart on August 29th and stayed there for 3 weeks, hitting N0. 3 on the UK chart. It’s a timeless, iconic classic that still has an impact today, a powerful, political protest song and soul dance explosion – irresistible.
Later in the year The Temptations got their own less controversial but the still powerful Ball Of Confusion, a non-album track included on the album, The Temptations Greatest Hits Vol.2. also released in 1970 and a N0. 3 hit for the band.
This from Wikipedia:
Despite its strong political themes, the record (Ball Of Confusion) consciously avoids implying a definitive point-of-view or a defiant stance. This is because The Temptations song which Norman Whitfield intended as a spring 1970 single release, was not released due to Motown’s concern the song’s forward message could alienate more conservative listeners. Whitfield took “War” and reworked it as a single for Gordy solo artist Edwin Starr (for whom it became a #1 hit), while he and lyricist Barrett Strong wrote the more subtle “Ball Of Confusion” for The Temptations.
Apart from The Temptations there have been some other interesting cover versions – Slovenia’s Laibach released a version from their 1994 NATO album. Liverpool’s Frankie Goes To Hollywood had a version on their 1985 album Welcome To The Pleasure Dome and of course Bruce Springsteen released a live version from his Live/1975–85 box-set.
Later in life Starr moved to England where he recorded with Utah Saints. He died of a heart attack at the age 61 of whilst taking a bath in his home outside Nottingham.
You can hear the entire War & Peace album here: