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War’s ‘The World Is a Ghetto’: Still Fabulous at 50

Mr. Nimbus | 12/12/2023

In 1970, a genre-bending band from Long Beach, Calif., called War teamed up with Eric Burdon, former singer for The Animals. Eric Burdon Declares “War” included the No. 3 Billboard Hot 100 hit “Spill the Wine,” and the May 2, 1970, Billboard declared Burdon was officially “now a full-fledged soul singer.” After one more album, Burdon collapsed onstage and then left the group, leaving War’s future uncertain. The band’s next album, as well as its first for United Artists (UA), only advanced to No. 190 on the Billboard 200.

The group proved it wasn’t a Cold War when its next album, All Day Music, hit No. 16 on the album chart in 1972. That same year, The World Is a Ghetto established the group — which still performs today with founding member Leroy “Lonnie” Jordan — as a musically fearless funk group that soared even higher without the burden of a famous frontman. The album topped the Billboard 200 on Feb. 17, 1973 — a half-century ago this year.

War Effort

After Burdon left, War waged a marketing blitz — the March 13, 1971, Billboard reported that the campaign “included saturation of trade and underground press with ‘War Is Coming’ ads,” as well as “distribution of 10,000 plastic war helmets to disk jockeys, music writers and key record dealers across the country.”

War Is Declared

The “Soul Sauce” column in the Nov. 11, 1972, Billboard hailed War’s The World Is a Ghetto as the “best new album of the week.” “Sparked by their current single and title cut, War have come up with [an] excellent package that is destined for big sales,” predicted a review in the same issue, citing the 13-minute “City, Country, City” as an “excellent example of talent in the group.”

War Cry

“War is a dynamic act in person and its single of ‘World Is a Ghetto’ on UA continues its quest toward the top,” read a “Hot Chart Action” dispatch in the Feb. 3, 1973, issue. The single would eventually reach No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 3 on what is now the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. War didn’t stop there — the April 21, 1973, Billboard reported that “The World Is a Ghetto has gone gold for War together with their other United Artists single, ‘Cisco Kid’ ” — which eventually hit No. 2.

Spoils of War

The World Is a Ghetto became “the top pop album of the year,” according to the Dec. 29, 1973, issue, beating out Seals & Crofts’ Summer Breeze, Stevie Wonder’s Talking Book and Carly Simon’s No Secrets. “The well-made AM [radio] hit of today must have impeccable production and great energy,” read an analysis of the album’s success in the same issue. “This War LP was a sterling example of crossover and of the increasing demand for danceable records with free-form Latin rhythms.”

This story originally appeared in the Dec. 9, 2023, issue of Billboard.

This post was originally published on this site

Written by Mr. Nimbus

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