The song “War” has been through quite a battle itself — after the original Motown recording of the song by The Temptations was deemed too controversial for the group to release as a single (even after fans were writing to Motown asking for that very thing), the song was re-recorded at Hitsville USA Studio A by Edwin Starr. Starr was born in Nashville and moved to Detroit in the 1960s where he was recording at Ric-Tic Records, a label that was eventually bought out by Berry Gordy Jr. and Motown in 1968 and absorbed Starr as a result. Starr volunteered to re-record The Temptations’ song, and the outcome was a version which, unlike The Temptations’ original, was backed by a soulful, affecting power that resonated with listeners. The song was written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong for Motown in 1969 as a straight-forward protest song against United States involvement in the war taking place in Vietnam. For as weary as the label was about how the song would mar the image of The Temptations, Edwin Starr reached the peak of his Motown career with the single. On August 29, 1970, “War” hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and remained there for three weeks.
Watch a video of Edwin Starr belting out his biggest hit, and the number one protest song to ever hit the charts below.