WAR veteran is happy to hear his funk in samples

That '70s sound is still around on TV and films


August 04, 2005|By Sam Sessa | Sam Sessa,SUN STAFF

Sometime in the early '70s, members of the funk band WAR were jamming in a warehouse at Hill and Lemon streets in Long Beach, Calif.

Their audience was a ragtag pack of little kids, some of whom would later lay down beats of their own. Dr. Dre and Eazy-E -- both boys back then -- were there, band leader Lonnie Jordan recalls.

As WAR kept touring -- they headline the International Festival this weekend -- these rappers grew up and shared what they learned in Long Beach with the world. Eazy-E's sample of WAR's "Slipping Into Darkness" in "Sippin' on a 40" was one way a new generation felt the funk.

"These kids tell me -- well, they're older now -- they tell me, `Do you guys remember when us and a whole bunch of other kids used to come down and watch you guys rehearse at the warehouse on Lemon and Hill Street?' said Jordan, who plays keyboards and sings. "I'd say, `Oh, you were that kid.' A lot of these rappers, they remember."

Unlike some other artists who think sampling is more like stealing, Jordan said he welcomes the reworking and covering of his music.

"I have no problem with it," he said. "In fact, I'm honored that someone would take the time to want to get into it."

Jordan said he admires new takes on his tunes and loves how young people today get into 30-year-old grooves.

"Even if they don't recognize us, they recognize the songs through other artists of their peers," he said.

WAR's music still circulates through pop culture, including new films, commercials and TV sitcoms. WAR's song "Low Rider" is the theme of The George Lopez Show.

The band's live shows also cater to young people. Besides clubs and festivals, they also play Low Rider car shows on the West Coast, where young people show off their lowered and hydraulic rides.

Though the band tours and writes new material, Jordan knows there is little hope for a new hit album. The pop market is just not there right now, and Jordan does not want the band to be labeled easy listening, he said.

"I'm not smooth jazz," he said.

WAR's last original album was 1994's Peace Sign, and Jordan is the only founding member who continues to tour. At 57, he is not stopping.

"Tired? What's that?" he said. "Is that something that you can put an `re' in front of? I don't think so. Not yet. If James Brown, Mick Jagger, Tina Turner -- if they can keep going, I can be a battery, too."

WAR is just a reflection of the people, Jordan said. The people have always been WAR's inspiration to write music, which is one of the reasons WAR's music continues to evolve in one form or another, he said. Playing for people is Jordan's purpose, he said.

"What keeps me alive -- my high and my endorphins when they kick in is when I see people smile and sing along with my songs. When I see that, that keeps me alive. That's my exercise. That's my food."

WAR plays the International Festival at 8 p.m. Sunday. The festival runs noon-9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at Poly/Western High School Complex at 1400 W. Coldspring Lane at Falls Road. Free. Call 410-396-3141 or visit www.baltimorecity.gov/government/moon.

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