Edwin Starr – “War”

Edwin Starr‘s July 1970 single, “War“, is a remarkably powerful performance of Vietnam War Music, expressing firm, impassioned and uncompromising opposition to the war. The well known chorus “War … What is it good for? Absolutely nothing!” repeats with gusto throughout the song, with the word “War” followed with exclamations like “good God, y’all!”, as if to say exasperatedly: it’s so obvious, why don’t you get it? While the timing and social context of the song (America in 1970) make it clearly a song about the Vietnam War, the lyrics could be about any war, and decry war in general, with lines like “Life is much too short and precious to spend fighting wars these days | War can’t give life it can only take it away”. The song was very popular, reaching #1 on the pop singles chart, and #3 on the R&B singles chart.

Starr followed “War” with another single, “Stop the War Now“, which also belongs in the list of Vietnam War songs. While not as musically impactful or commercially successful as “War”, it is still an effective piece of music delivered in a similar style. “Stop the War Now” deals with some specific issues, such as: the unjustness of the draft; the moral strain of killing; the mounting death toll; the insult of a pension and medal in return for a son’s life. But in other respects it’s similar to “War”, just not quite as effective.

Last modified: Friday, 15 July 2011, 9:43 PM