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War at Sound Board, 5 Things to Know

By Gary Graff
ggraff@medianewsgroup.com, @GraffonMusic on Twitte

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Fifty years ago, record producer Jerry Goldstein grabbed a band called Nightshift in Los Angeles and declared War. And War has been raging ever since.

The group, which backed both Deacon Jones of the Los Angeles Rams and the Animals' Eric Burdon, has carved out a lengthy career blending funk, soul, rock, jazz and other styles into a mixed musical bag that defies any easy categorization. War's hits -- "Low Rider," "Cisco Kid," "The World is a Ghetto," "Why Can't We Be Friends?" -- hold up as well today as when they were released, and the group has at least been nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on several occasions, though it has yet to make the cut.

Keyboardist Leroy "Lonnie" Jordan is the only founding member still with War, and he's happily continuing the charge, and the legacy, with a current incarnation of the band...

Jordan, 70, says by phone that he's not big on numbers, so War's 50th anniversary has limited impact with him. "It seems like 50 minutes to me, y'know? The music never ends, let's put it that way. I can't remember numbers and years and stuff. I erase that all out of my mind. If you ask me a question about what year did we start, I can't tell you. I'm just playing the music, man."

Jordan says he's spent some 55 years playing in War and its earlier incarnations because "it's my happy place. It's my Rock and Roll Hall of Fans -- they're the ones who want to keep seeing and hearing the music continue. We've become the soundtrack to their lives. It's really important for a lot of people. I didn't know until I realized later that I was actually a doctor of music, helping heal people, reminding people of their good times and bad times and the fact we're all still here. It means a lot to those people."

Jordan calls War's eclectic blend "universal street music" and says it comes from the individual members' influences and musical sources. "That was the beauty part of what we had; Everybody in the band brought to the table something outside the box. We just pretty much lit the stem and a big firecracker exploded. We did it without even realizing it. I don't know whether to call it an accident or just the fact we never really knew what we were doing."

Success has always been something of a surprise for Jordan and his bandmates. "We never thought our music would take off. We never thought it would be played on the radio. We did know that it was just a little too different. We were so used to hearing from other people that 'You guys better go in there sounding like so-and-so,' sounding like this band or that band or that group. We didn't do that. We didn't care. We just played."

Jordan says War does have some new music in motion, but the group is also in early talks about a stage musical based on the band's catalog and story. "It's just an idea right now. It didn't come from us; It came from someone else, in that field of work, the Broadway thing. It's just a matter of meeting, talking and throwing out some ideas and gearing my story, along with Jerry Goldstein's. It would be great. It would put us in a whole other world, most likely introduce us to a brand new audience, so I hope it works out."

War performs at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, June 23, at Sound Board in the Motor City Casino Hotel, 2901 Grand River Blvd., Detroit. $32-$44. 313-309-4700 or soundboarddetroit.com.

Web Site: www.soundboarddetroit.com

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