Friday, 2 September 2011

All my friends know the low rider. The low rider is a little higher. Low rider drives a little slower

Quick Hit

“Low Rider” by War (1975)  

I once was in Orange County and saw this car with several Chicano gentlemen looking very serious pull up at the intersection. The car bobbed up and down on its hydraulic lifters and I just could not help myself and I laughed. I was not laughing at them per se, but just struck by how so unlikely it was to see something so stereotypically real down to the headbands and glimmering hubcaps. They could have shot me or something if they wanted to I’m sure so I pretty quickly took the grin off my face.

I was in a summer vacation town recently and was watching the cars go up and down the strip. Every town has a strip and every town had the boys that drive up and down them. The prosperity of the towns vary, so therefore so do the quality and quantity of the cars. The one thing that seems to be constant however is the attitude. The look that they have in their eyes is always the same – the incarnation of James Dean or Elvis or something - don’t you know it is never cool to smile!

“Low Rider” was written by the band War and appeared on their 1975 album “Why Can’t We Be Friends”. It is the epitome of the guy that rides the circuit. There are a million variations of this theme but everyone immediately identified with the lyric “all my friends know the low rider”. The song went to number one and the album sold like hot cakes.

Originally formed in 1969 and called ‘Eric Burden and War’, the band is appealing to all cultures with its blend of funk, Latin, jazz and R&B. Amazingly this band has sold more than 50 million albums.
“Low Rider” may win the award for “best use of cowbell” but it was important in its own right with the sentiment of the band for all cultures to get along. “Why Can’t We Be Friends”, although it seems a little naive, maybe there was sort of a crazy genius to the social statement they were making.

With a diversity of cultures that was Los Angeles; the California band “The Creators” did R&B and had a message of brotherhood and peace. Gerry Goldstein saw them performing and loved them..He told Eric Burden who was then pretty much done with the U.K. band “The Animals” and he decided to join them. Their first album “Eric Burden Goes to War” contained the song “Spill the Wine” a modest hit which launched the band. Burden and War toured extensively in Europe and the U.S.

Burden then left the band in 1971 and they went on to succeed without him. A few albums in and they had modest success with songs like “Slippin’ Into Darkness” and “Cisco Kid” from 1972’s ‘The World is a Ghetto” – its excellent music earned it Billboards “Best Selling Album” of 1973 – it crossed ethnic boundaries.

It was in 1975 with the “Why Can’t We Be Friends” album that War was at the top of its game. The album had the number one single with” Low Rider”. The greatest hits package the next year also spun off a hit in “Summer” another ‘cruising” song.

The important messages lurked beneath the easy layers of great rhymes and harmonies of this very tight and interesting band – it was right there, but it was easy to miss if you were distracted by the awesome music. Does that make sense to anyone? It did to me.

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