As the powerful voice for Norman Whitfield productions, Edwin Starr is a soul and pop star at home, and a huge force on the British Northern Soul dance scene. His recording of “War” is one of Motown’s most provocative, socially conscious and enduring songs.
- First Hit: “Agent Double-O-Soul” for Motown rival Ric-Tic
- Biggest Hit: “War”
- Top Album: War & Peace
- Career Highlight: His version of “War,” A Norman Whitfield-Barrett Strong message song that had previously been a lower-key Temptations album cut, is a No. 1 smash. Starr’s powerful interpretation inspires cover versions by Frankie Goes to Hollywood and Bruce Springsteen, among others.
- Born Charles Edwin Hatcher, January 21, 1942 in Nashville, Tennessee, first records in the mid-sixties for Ric-Tic, an independent label soon snapped up and closed by Berry Gordy. Starr’s hits there besides “Agent Double-O-Soul” include “Headline News” and “S.O.S. (Stop Her on Sight)”; he also co-writes the top 20 hit “Oh How Happy” for Shades Of Blue.
- Signed to the Gordy label, Edwin debuts with the funky Soul Master album, which features his Ric-Tic catalog and Motown covers.
- He breaks through with “Twenty Five Miles” in 1969, which proves to be his biggest hit other than the signature “War.”
- Starr’s album career peaks with War & Peace. He is also heard to good effect on Hell Up in Harlem, the sequel to Black Caesar, an album whose cache balloons in the following generation when “Easin’ In” becomes a sample favoured by dozens of rappers, including Ice-T, Snoop Dogg, DMX, Prodigy and more.
- Post-Motown, Starr hits the dance and U.K. pop charts with “Contact” and “H.A.P.P.Y. Radio.”
- Edwin’s Motown recordings became so prized on the Northern Soul circuit that later in his career he moved to England. He recorded a duet with the U.K. band Utah Saints, a new version of his 1971 hit, “Funky Music Sho’ ’Nuff Turns Me On,” in 2000. He died in Nottingham at age 61, in 2003, and is buried there. His gravestone reads “Our Agent 00 Soul.”