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War continues to rage -- happily
Forty years ago, War had its last Top 10 hit in the U.S., the appropriately titled "Summer" that was featured on the group's first "Greatest Hits" album.
But keyboardist Leroy "Lonnie" Scott says the song's inspiration was sensory rather than seasonal.
"We were recording the song, and at the time I was eating a burger from Burger King," Scott, 67 -- the sole remaining founding member in War's lineup -- recalls by phone from his home in Los Angeles. "I sat down at the piano and the track was rolling, I had my headphones on and I'm trying to think of something to sing, and here I am eating a hambuger and having a glass wof wine.
"So I started singing this melody from the Burger King commercial, 'Have it your way...,' and that was it. We said 'Bingo!' But that was the only melodic line I took -- or borrowed, as we called it."
"Summer" was a winning addition to a War catalog that features 11 Top 10 Hot 100 hits -- including classics such as "Low Rider," "Spill The Wine," "The World Is a Ghetto," "The Cisco Kid" and "Why Can't We Be Friends" -- along with 31 gold, platinum and multi-platinum awards. Nearly 50 years after forming, for two albums with the Animals' Eric Burdon before striking out on their own, War remains an active concern, still playing regularly and recording; its most recent album, "Evolution," came out in 2014, while Jordan says he's working on an idea for its next effort, most likely a collaboration with younger artists.
"We're the old grandpas now, but we love working with the younger generation," Jordan says, noting that War was one of the leaders in helping to establish laws to insure veteran acts were paid royalties and licensing fees when its material was sampled by rappers.
"I'm seeing a younger generation tell me, 'Thank you for inspiring my parents to inspire us to come out and listen to you.' It's great; They know all the words, probably better than I do 'cause the chip in my brain isn't upgraded, so I forget a little. It comes with age." But Jordan is happy that there's still a War as well as an audience that wants to hear it.
"We never, never, never thought that we would be a part of the whole scene later in life," he acknowledges. "I just thoguth I woudl continue listening to James Brown or Ray Charles or Bill Evans. I just thought I was going to use my ears as a gift. But I ended up plying music and playing all types of music, and here we are.
"Thank God we're able to play and thank God we are universal entertainers, music-wise, because we're able to play all venues, all genres. We're working all the time, so I can only feel blessed for that."
War and the Average White Band
8 p.m. Saturday, May 15.
Music Hall Center, 350 Madison St., Detroit.
Tickets are $49-$89.
Call 313-887-8500 or visit musichall.org.
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