Edwin Starr (born Charles Edwin Hatcher; January 21, 1942 – April 2, 2003) was an American singer and songwriter. Starr was famous for his Norman Whitfield-produced Motown singles of the 1970s, most notably the number one hit “War”.
Starr was born in Tennessee and raised in Ohio, and later lived in Detroit while singing for Ric Tic and Motown Records. He was backed by the band that would later become known as “Black Merda”. Hawkins and Veasey of the group played on most of his early hits on the Ric Tic Label. Besides “War”, Starr’s songs “25 Miles” and “Stop the War Now” were also major successes in the 1960s. Starr’s career shifted to the United Kingdom in the 1970s, where he continued to produce music, living there until his death.
Charles Edwin Hatcher was born 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 Ric-Tic label, part of the Golden World recording company, and later for Motown Records (under the Gordy Records imprint), after the latter absorbed Ric-Tic in 1968.
The song which launched 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” and “S.O.S. (Stop Her on Sight)”. While at Ric-Tic, he wrote the song, “Oh, How Happy”, a #12 Billboard Hot 100 hit in 1966 for The Shades of Blue (he would go on to release a version of the song with Blinky in 1969) and sang lead for the Holidays on their #12 R&B hit, “I’ll Love You Forever”. At Motown he recorded a string of singles before enjoying an international success with “25 Miles”, which he co-wrote with producers Johnny Bristol and Harvey Fuqua. It peaked at #6 in both the Hot 100 and R&B Charts in 1969.
It was when Motown’s Berry Gordy became frustrated with smaller labels like Ric-Tic stealing some of the success of his company that he bought out the label. Many of Starr’s Ric-Tic songs (subsequently owned by Motown) like “Back Street” and “Headline News” became favored Northern Soul classics. His early Ric-Tic hit “Stop Her On Sight (S.O.S.)” was reissued in Britain (with “Headline News” as its B-side) in 1968, and it performed better than the original release on the UK Chart, surpassing the original #35 and peaking at #11. His 1970 song “Time” also helped to establish him as a prominent artist on the Northern Soul scene.