Early life and education
Starr was born Charles Edwin Hatcher
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 record label Ric-Tic, and later for Motown Records after the latter absorbed Ric-Tic in 1968.The song which began 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", a cover of The Miracles' "Way Over There", and "S.O.S. (Stop Her on Sight)". He recorded more soul music for the next three years before having an international hit in "25 Miles" (1968), which peaked at #6 in the United States the following year.
The biggest hit of his career, which cemented his reputation, was the Vietnam War protest song "War" (1970). Starr's intense vocals transformed a Temptations album track into a #1 chart success, which spent three weeks in the top position on the U.S. Billboard
charts, an anthem for the antiwar movement and a cultural milestone that continues to resound in movie soundtracks and hip hop music samples. It sold over three million copies, and was awarded a gold disc. "War" appeared on both Starr's War & Peace
album and its follow-up, Involved
also featured another song of similar construction titled "Stop the War Now", which was a minor hit in its own right.Moving to England in 1973, Starr continued to record, most notably the song "Hell Up in Harlem" for the 1974 film Hell Up in Harlem
, which was the sequel to Black Caesar
, an earlier hit with a soundtrack by James Brown. In 1979, Starr reappeared on the charts with a pair of disco hits, "(Eye-to-Eye) Contact" and "H.A.P.P.Y. Radio". "Contact" was the more successful of the two, peaking at #65 on the US pop charts, #13 on the R&B chart, #1 on the dance chart, and #6 on the UK Singles Chart. By now he had joined the well-established disco boom, and had further singles on 20th Century Records. Over the years he released tracks on many labels, including Avatar, Calibre, 10 Records, Motown (a return to his former label for a 1989 remix of "25 Miles"), Streetwave and Hippodrome.In 1985, Starr released "It Ain't Fair". Despite garnering the attention of many in the soul and dance clubs, it fell short of becoming a hit. Starr appeared on the charity number one single "Let It Be" by Ferry Aid in 1987. Later that year, Starr teamed up with the Stock, Aitken and Waterman production company for the club hit "Whatever Makes Our Love Grow". In 1989, a number 17 UK hit by the Cookie Crew called "Got to Keep On" sampled a portion of "25 Miles". This track was then featured on a 1990 dance medley made for the BRIT Awards, which made number 2 in the UK Singles Chart. A club mix of various artists, it included the previous years remix of "25 Miles".In 1989, Starr also joined Ian Levine's Motorcity Records, releasing six singles and the album Where Is the Sound
, as well as co-writing several songs for other artists on the label. Starr resurfaced briefly in 2000 to team up with the UK band Utah Saints to record a new version of "Funky Music Sho Nuff Turns Me On". He appeared again in 2002 to record a song with the British musician Jools Holland, singing "Snowflake Boogie" on Holland's compact disc More Friends
; and to record another track with Utah Saints, a so-far-unreleased version of his number one hit "War" – his last-ever recording.Starr remained a hero on England's Northern Soul circuit and continued living in England for the remainder of his life.
On April 2, 2003, at the age of 61, Starr suffered a heart attack and died while taking a bath at his home in Bramcote near Nottingham. He left a wife, Annette Mary Hatcher, a son André Hatcher, and two grandchildren Alonté Renfroe and Maryah Hatcher.His brother Angelo Starr is now fronting the Team, the band Edwin Starr had been touring with for over 20 years. His previous band, Total Concept Unlimited, became the band Rose Royce after adding a female singer.