Edwin Starr Biography

Charles Edwin Hatcher, 21 January 1942, Nashville, Tennessee, USA, d. 2 April 2003, Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, England. The brother of soul singers Roger and Willie Hatcher, Starr was raised in Cleveland, where he formed the Future Tones vocal group in 1957. They recorded one single for Tress, before Starr was drafted into the US Army for three years. After completing his service, he toured for two years with the Bill Doggett Combo, and was then offered a solo contract with the Ric Tic label in 1965. His first single as Edwin Starr, ‘Agent Double-O-Soul’, was a US Top 30 hit and the singer exploited its popularity by appearing in a short promotional film with actor Sean Connery, best known for his role as James Bond. ‘Stop Her On Sight (S.O.S.)’ repeated this success, and brought Starr a cult following in Britain, where his strident, gutsy style proved popular in specialist soul clubs.

When Motown Records took over the Ric Tic catalogue in 1967, Starr was initially overlooked by the label’s hierarchy. He re-emerged in 1969 with ‘25 Miles’, a US Top 10 hit that owed much to the dominant soul style of the Stax Records label. An album of duets with Blinky brought some critical acclaim, before Starr resumed his solo career with the strident, politically outspoken ‘War’, a US number 1 in 1970. Teamed with writer/producer Norman Whitfield, Starr was allowed to record material that had been earmarked for the Temptations, who covered both of his subsequent Motown hits, ‘Stop The War Now’ and ‘Funky Music Sho Nuff Turns Me On’. Starr’s own credentials as a writer were demonstrated on ‘Oh How Happy’, which became a soul standard after he first recorded it in the late 60s. He was given room to blossom on the 1974 soundtrack Hell Up In Harlem, which fitted into the ‘blaxploitation’ mould established by Curtis Mayfield and Isaac Hayes.

Tantalized by this breath of artistic freedom, Starr left the confines of Motown in 1975, recording for small labels in Britain and America before striking a new commercial seam in 1979 with two major disco hits, ‘Contact’ and ‘H.A.P.P.Y. Radio’, both of which made the UK mainstream Top 10. In the 80s, Starr was based in the UK, where he collaborated with the Style Council on a record in support of striking coal miners, and enjoyed a run of club hits on the Hippodrome label, most notably ‘It Ain’t Fair’ in 1985. Between 1989 and 1991, Starr worked with Ian Levine’s Motor City Records, recording a remake of ‘25 Miles’ in a modern style and releasing Where Is The Sound. Starr continued to tour, especially in Europe where he enjoyed the support of a loyal fan base until his death from a heart attack in April 2003.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.