Edwin Starr — the soul crooner who rhetorically cried out, "War, what is it good for?" in his 1970 hit "War" before replying "absolutely nothing" — died of a heart attack at his home in Nottingham, England, on Wednesday. He was 61.
Born Charles Hatcher in Nashville, Tennessee, Starr started singing at an early age. When he was in high school, he formed the doo-wop quintet the FutureTones, with whom he recorded a single before the military draft delayed his career.
When he returned from the armed services two years later, Starr sang with the Bill Doggett Combo while he worked on his own material. In 1965 he penned the stealthy hit "Agent Double-O-Soul" and signed with Ric Tic Records. Starr promoted the song by making a cameo in a short film with James Bond actor Sean Connery. A year later Starr returned the top 10 of the R&B chart with "Stop Her on Sight (S.O.S.)"
Impressed by Starr's charisma, Motown Records founder Berry Gordy purchased Ric Tic and made the singer a priority. He wasn't disappointed. In 1969, Starr wrote his biggest hit to date, "25 Miles," which landed in the top 10 on both the pop and R&B charts.
But it was the scathing anti-war song "War" that would be Starr's claim to fame. The track was co-written with producer Norman Whitfield for the Temptations' Psychedelic Shack album, but the label considered the song too incendiary for the group, so Whitfield and Starr reworked the track for Starr's War & Peace (1970). Starr followed up with the similarly themed "Stop the War Now," and in 1974 he wrote the soundtrack to the movie "Hell up in Harlem," his sixth album with Motown.
Soon after the disc's release, Starr left the label. In the years that followed, he reinvented himself as a disco performer and recorded several albums for small record companies. His last record was 1983's For Sale.
In the '80s Starr moved to England, where he toured with soul revues. In 1999 he dueted onstage in Birmingham with Bruce Springsteen, who had previously covered "War" on tour. Last year Starr performed at the wedding of Liza Minnelli and David Gest.