Biography All Music GuideWikipedia
All Music Guide:
Rightly revered for the storming protest classic "War," Edwin Starr didn't really need another hit to achieve legendary status in soul circles, so electrifying was that single performance. Starr first made his name as "Agent Double-O-Soul," and when his contract was transferred to Motown, he instantly became one of the roughest, toughest vocalists on the crossover-friendly label, with his debt to James Brown and the Stax soul shouters. Even if nothing else ever matched the phenomenon of "War," Starr had several Top Ten hits on the R&B charts over the late '60s and early '70s, and also enjoyed a brief renaissance during the disco era.
Starr was born Charles Hatcher in Nashville, TN, on January 21, 1942 (his cousin was deep soul singer and songwriter Roger Hatcher). He grew up in Cleveland and formed a doo wop quintet called the FutureTones while still in high school. They won numerous local talent competitions and even recorded a single for a small label, but Starr was drafted into the military in 1960, stalling the group's momentum. When he returned in 1962, he tried to get things going again, but to no avail; instead, he wound up joining Bill Doggett's group as a featured vocalist in 1963. Two years later, Starr wrote what he felt was a surefire hit in the spy-themed "Agent Double-O-Soul," and left Doggett's band to sign with Ric Tic Records and settle in Detroit. "Agent Double-O-Soul" hit the R&B Top Ten later in 1965, and just missed the pop Top 20. Starr capitalized on the song's novelty appeal by appearing on-stage in a spy costume complete with toy gun, but proved he was no one-trick pony by returning to the Top Ten a year later with "Stop Her on Sight (S.O.S.)."
Motown head Berry Gordy subsequently bought out Ric Tic and took over its artist roster, with Starr the crown jewel. Contract negotiations took some time, but Starr rebounded with his biggest hit yet in 1969's "25 Miles," which reached the Top Ten on both the pop and R&B charts. The follow-up, "I'm Still a Struggling Man," wasn't as successful, and Starr was something of a forgotten man for several months. When he returned to the studio, it was with producer Norman Whitfield, who'd been reinventing the Temptations as a psychedelic soul act. Whitfield had co-written a strident anti-war protest song, "War," for the Temps' Psychedelic Shack LP, and in spite of growing demand for a single release, Motown didn't want the group to take such an aggressive stance. Whitfield recut "War" with Starr, and the resulting version was arguably the most incendiary song Motown ever released. It zoomed to the top of the pop charts in 1970, and its chorus -- powered by Starr's guttural delivery -- remains a catch phrase even today.
The follow-up single, "Stop the War Now," was blatantly derivative, but made the R&B Top Five anyway, and Starr went on to land another significant hit with "Funky Music Sho' Nuff Turns Me On." In 1974, he handled the soundtrack to the blaxploitation film Hell Up in Harlem, a sequel to the James Brown-scored Black Caesar (Brown had originally been slated to do the follow-up as well). The lack of promotion signaled that Starr's days with Motown were likely numbered; he charted again in 1975 with "Pain," and bade farewell to the label with "Who's Right or Wrong." He recorded albums for small labels, including 1975's Free to Be Myself on Granite and 1977's Afternoon Sunshine on GTO, before finding a new home on 20th Century in 1978. Here he briefly reinvented himself as a disco singer, scoring his biggest hits in years with 1979's "Contact" and "H.A.P.P.Y. Radio"; his final release with the label came in 1980.
Starr moved to the U.K. during the '80s, recording a Marvin Gaye tribute album for Streetwave and a handful of singles for Hippodrome over 1985-1986. His participation in the Ferry Aid charity project led to a deal with Virgin and a session with the hot production team of Stock, Aitken & Waterman, but he didn't take to their high-tech dance-pop style and instead moved to Ian Levine's Motown revival label Motorcity from 1989-1991. Later he guested on dance remakes of his past hits by Utah Saints ("Funky Music") and Three Amigos ("25 Miles"), but otherwise recorded little until his death in 2003.
Edwin Starr (January 21, 1942 – April 2, 2003) was an American soul music singer. Starr is most famous for his Norman Whitfield produced Motown singles of the 1970s, most notably the number one hit "War".
Early life 
Starr was born Charles Edwin Hatcher in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1942. He and his cousins, soul singers Roger and Willie Hatcher, moved to Cleveland, Ohio, where they were raised.
In 1957, Starr formed a doo-wop group, The Future Tones, and began his singing career. Starr lived in Detroit, Michigan, in the 1960s and recorded at first for the small record label Ric-Tic, and later for Motown Records after the latter absorbed Ric-Tic in 1968.
The song which began his career was "Agent Double'O'Soul" (1965), a reference to the James Bond films popular at the time. Other early hits included "Headline News", "Back Street", a cover of The Miracles "Way Over There", and "S.O.S. (Stop Her on Sight)". He recorded more soul music for the next three years before having an international hit in "25 Miles" (1968), which peaked at #6 in the United States the following year.
The biggest hit of his career, which cemented his reputation, was the Vietnam War protest song "War" (1970). Starr's intense vocals transformed a Temptations album track into a #1 chart success, which spent three weeks in the top position on the US Billboard charts, an anthem for the antiwar movement and a cultural milestone that continues to resound in movie soundtracks and hip hop music samples. It sold over three million copies, and was awarded a gold disc. "War" appeared on both Starr's War and Peace album and its follow-up, Involved. Involved also featured another song of similar construction titled "Stop the War Now", which was a minor hit in its own right.
Moving to England in 1973, Starr continued to record, most notably the song "Hell Up in Harlem" for the 1974 film Hell Up in Harlem, which was the sequel to Black Caesar, an earlier hit with a soundtrack by James Brown. In 1979, Starr reappeared on the charts with a pair of disco hits, "(Eye-to-Eye) Contact" and "H.A.P.P.Y. Radio". "Contact" was the more successful of the two, peaking at #65 on the US pop charts, #13 on the R&B chart, #1 on the dance chart, and #6 on the UK Singles Chart. By now he had joined the well-established disco boom, and had further singles on 20th Century Records. Over the years he released tracks on many labels, including Avatar, Calibre, 10 Records, Motown (a return to his former label for a 1989 remix of "25 Miles"), Streetwave and Hippodrome.
In 1985, Starr released "It Ain't Fair". Despite garnering the attention of many in the soul and dance clubs, it fell short of becoming a hit. Starr appeared on the charity number one single "Let It Be" by Ferry Aid in 1987. Later that year, Starr teamed up with the Stock, Aitken and Waterman production company for the club hit "Whatever Makes Our Love Grow". In 1989, a number 17 UK hit by the Cookie Crew called "Got to Keep On" sampled a portion of "25 Miles". This track was then featured on a 1990 dance medley made for the BRIT Awards, which made number 2 in the UK Singles Chart. A club mix of various artists, it included the previous years remix of "25 Miles".
In 1989, Starr also joined Ian Levine's Motorcity Records, releasing six singles and the album Where Is the Sound, as well as co-writing several songs for other artists on the label. Starr resurfaced briefly in 2000 to team up with the UK band Utah Saints to record a new version of "Funky Music Sho Nuff Turns Me On". He appeared again in 2002 to record a song with the British musician Jools Holland, singing "Snowflake Boogie" on Holland's compact disc More Friends; and to record another track with Utah Saints, a so-far-unreleased version of his number one hit "War" – his last-ever recording.
Starr remained a hero on England's Northern Soul circuit and continued living in England for the remainder of his life.
On April 2, 2003, at the age of 61, Starr suffered a heart attack and died while taking a bath at his home in Bramcote near Nottingham. He left a wife, Annette Mary Hatcher, a son André Hatcher, and two grandchildren Alonté Renfroe and Maryah Hatcher.
His brother Angelo Starr is now fronting the Team, the band Edwin Starr had been touring with for over 20 years. His previous band, Total Concept Unlimited, became the band Rose Royce after adding a female singer.