Thursday, November 5, 2009
The year 1969 was a time of anti-Vietnam war protests and civil rights marches, which made it a perfect platform for WAR, an eight-piece, Los Angeles-based band featuring a multicultural lineup of musicians playing songs popping with socio-political lyrics.
WAR prided themselves on their musical experimentation, constantly crossing over into different genres. They fused jazz, reggae, funk, Latin and rock, winning fans of all ethnicities, and earned a spot on par with the likes of Earth, Wind & Fire and Stevie Wonder.
“Our mission was to spread a message of brotherhood and harmony,” original member/keyboardist Lonnie Jordan explains on the band’s website. “Our instruments and voices became our weapons of choice and the songs our ammunition. We spoke out against racism, hunger, gangs, crimes, and turf wars, as we embraced all people with hope and the spirit of brotherhood.”
Four decades later, WAR brings their socially conscious messages and spicy genre cocktails, just as relevant as they were in the ’60s, to Carmel.
The lineup is much different than it used to be, but WAR has thrived with every one of their incarnations. Though most associate Eric Burdon of the Animals with WAR, he was only involved with two albums: Eric Burdon Declares WAR and The Black Man’s Burdon. In fact, most of the original band members come from Compton in Los Angeles and had been gigging together since 1962, opening for such acts as Ike and Tina Turner.
It wasn’t until Burdon left WAR that it really began to flourish, recording more than 10 albums, including the soundtrack to the 1978 blaxploitation film Youngbloods and 1976’s River Tiger.
But it’s the 1972 classic, The World is a Ghetto, that really put WAR on the map. The album hit number one on the Billboard Charts and was voted Billboard’s Album of the Year.
The album is overloaded with Latin rhythms, group harmonies, heavy funk and Caribbean beats. And the title track – a beautiful, 10-minute tour of ghetto U.S.A. – was a Top Ten hit.
The first tune on the album, “Cisco Kid,” which also placed high on the charts, is about a dude named Cisco and his buddy Poncho, drinking wine and eating peanuts by the Rio Grande. The song gives listeners temporary relief from life in the hood or any other kind of life stresses.
Over the years, WAR continued to flood the charts with hits like “Why Can’t We Be Friends?” and, of course, the universally known “Low Rider.”
As original drummer Harold Brown told www.songfacts.com in 2007, “I think our music crossed all the different barriers and all the different nationalities.”
WAR plays 8pm Saturday, Nov. 7, at Sunset Center, San Carlos Street at Ninth, Carmel. $47-$67. 620-2048.