Edwin Starr passed away the other day. He was a soul shouter with a killer band and only three hits, but my oh my what hits:
- Agent Double-O Soul
- Twenty Five Miles
One of my reference books describes “War”, from 1970, as “cataclysmic,” which is as good a description as any. Where Marvin Gaye talked about how “only love can conquer hate,” and the Temptations sang their complex and wordy “Ball of Confusion,” and Crosby Stills Nash & Young decried “Four dead in Ohio,” Starr cut to the chase. The chorus was as simple as can be: “War! Huh! What is it good for? Absolutely nothin’!”
The chart underneath it swung from snare clicks to punching horns to snarling guitars. It was impossible to ignore the song as it came pouring out of the radio — as impossible as it is to imagine such a song being programmed on any major station today.
If that were all Edwin Starr did, he’s be worth remembering. But there was also “Twenty Five Miles.” It’s the story of a guy counting down the 25 miles he’s walking to see his baby again, but it inexplicably fades out as the singer’s got 5 more miles to go. Why? Was the song too long for radio? What happened? Did he ever get there? Was she waiting for him?
If I ever get to front a soul band, with the horns and the chick backup singers and the whole deal, I’m going to find me a chart for “Twenty Five Miles,” and that’s what I’ll sing. I might even make up the last five.