Famed band War’s leader reflects on musical history
June 30, 2013
And those attending Concert Under the Stars, A Benefit for The Greenhouse Project headlined by War and its leader of more than 40 years, Lonnie Jordon, will have two women to thank when John Street adjacent to Café at Adele's, becomes a happy place of sorts July 9.
Growing up in Compton, Calif., Jordon might have spent more time listening to the old guys who were gathered on porches playing music than he should have, a fact he's quick to say he's not proud of.
"My school had an orchestra and a beautiful, perfectly tuned piano that I wanted more than anything to play," he said. But because his grades weren't where they needed to be to allow his participation, Jordon's playing of said piano was relegated to stolen moments before he would inevitably get caught and sent back to class or home.
"I was angry about that and so I spent a lot of time on the streets listening to the old men playing blues, bottles wrapped in brown paper bags and I knew it was booze — heck, you could smell it on them — and I also was at my grandmother's, where she would have people over to the house and they'd play gospel music — you know church folks," he said. "And I loved it."
Seeing this love for music and piano in him, Jordon's mother eventually found him a hand-me-down, out-of-tune piano.
"I just made do with what I had," he said. "I found myself playing blues, R&B and country — Hank Snow, The Everly Brothers, Patsy Cline and I found I could go anywhere, play anything, people loved it and that's what it still is today, universal street music."
War hit the stage in 1969 with its blend of blues, reggae, Latin and jazz with the hit song, "Spill the Wine," followed by other hits including "Why Can't We Be Friends" and "Low Rider."
Today, War's audiences are multigenerational.
"Kids come up and they play alternative music or whatever, a lot of them have covered our music and they are sophisticated and smart," Jordon said. "And because of all the technology available to them, they have found the lazy way out, 'Hey, I'll have this robot play this for me' kind of thing, when the old musicians, we worked hard. Making great music used to take a lot of work and hippies came together and leaned their heads on one another's shoulders and supported one another, and while so many great things have come from all this technology, I believe computers have taken the place of community.
"Community and love is what matters; it's what we do, and seeing all those generations in the audience is a beautiful thing."
Jordon continues to write songs, and ideas for them come from anywhere.
"It could come from what I see, something that happens, a thought," he said. "And I type it down, write it down, just get it down … could start with a title or a sentence, be a lyric or a melody, there's no set way, but I gotta get it down.
"Remember also, the fans really write the songs, I just pick up the pen."
The band recently was nominated for induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
"It is good to be thought of that way, absolutely," Jordon said. "But what really matters is the fans. I am a reflection of the fans who have allowed me to make music, who come to our shows and bring me to a happy place."
Premium tickets for Concert Under the Stars cost $60, and general admission tickets cost $40. For tickets, go to carsoncitygreenhouse.org or call Adele's at 775-882-3353.
For more information about sponsorships, call Karen Abowd at 775-232-8626.