War Biography

Veterans of the Californian west coast circuit, the core of War’s line-up - Leroy ‘Lonnie’ Jordan (21 November 1948, San Diego, California, USA; keyboards), Howard Scott (b. 15 March 1946, San Pedro, California, USA; guitar), Charles Miller (b. 2 June 1939, Olathe, Kansas, USA; flute/saxophone), Morris ‘B.B.’ Dickerson (b. 3 August 1949, Torrence, California, USA; bass) and Harold Brown (b. 17 March 1946, Long Beach, California, USA; drums) - had made several records under different names including the Creators, the Romeos and Senor Soul. In 1969, the quintet was working as Nightshift, an instrumental group, when ex-Animals lead singer, Eric Burdon, adopted them as his backing band. Renamed War, the ensemble was completed by Lee Oskar (b. Oskar Levetin Hansen, 24 March 1948, Copenhagen, Denmark; harmonica) and ‘Papa’ Dee Allen (b. 18 July 1931, Wilmington, Delaware, USA, d. 29 August 1988; percussion).

Their debut Eric Burdon Declares War, included the rhythmic ‘Spill The Wine’, but the group broke away from the UK vocalist, following a second collection. War’s potent fusion of funk, R&B, rock and Latin styles produced a progressive soul sound best heard on All Day Music and The World Is A Ghetto. They also enjoyed a significant success in the US singles charts with ‘The Cisco Kid’ (1973), ‘Why Can’t We Be Friends?’ (1975) and ‘Summer’ (1976), each of which earned a gold disc, while in the UK they earned two Top 20 hits with ‘Low Rider’ (1976) and ‘Galaxy’ (1978). War’s subsequent progress proved less fortunate. Despite an early promise, a move to MCA Records was largely unproductive as the group’s record sales dipped. Lee Oskar embarked on an intermittent solo career and further changes undermined their original fire and purpose. Two 1982 singles, ‘You Got The Power’ and ‘Outlaw’ suggested a renaissance but the band was later obliged to finance its own releases. However, a 1987 remake of ‘Low Rider’, a previous smash hit, did reach the minor places in the R&B chart. Into the 90s the band struggled on, still performing although most of the original members had long since departed.

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

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