WAR: Doctors of Music To Harmonize MLK’s Manhattan Square in Rochester

We, the people, live in a world of deception and violence, plagued with its unknown burden at every corner. What is so beautiful about the human race, is that we are natural born fighters. Hence, we must wage WAR. Our allies, the multi-platinum, genre-less fusion group WAR, have been by our side since their inception in 1969. You are familiar with their renowned hits “Why Can’t We Be Friends,” “Low Rider” and “The World Is A Ghetto.” Fifty years later, and more than 50 million records sold, founder and last standing original member, Leroy “Lonnie” Jordan is rooted in the bands original message of peace, the people and love.

Paralleling messages of Martin Luther King Jr., it is extraordinarily special that the band will be performing at King’s Memorial Square in Manhattan Park in Rochester, NY on Thursday July 25. WAR will headline alongside stout openers Taz Niederauer and Grupo NextLevel apart of Five Star Bank’s Party in the Park series. Tickets can be purchased here or at the doors for $7 –  VIP, season passes and amenities available, where kids 12 and under are free. Bazaar in the Park, a collection of rotating local artists and vendors selling unique wares across from the fountains will return as well.

Lonnie Jordan @ Paramount Hudson Valley in Peeskill, NY. Photo By NYS’ Mickey Deneher.

“People can remember that this gentleman, Martin Luther King, was a non-violent. Thats bottom line. He had the same message we did through our music. He was a doctor of communication and a troubadour himself. He preached NON-violence, that’s the key. The fact that he could get so many people together to march and express that, and show that you can stand up against violence when you’re together as one – totally for peace. 

WAR was well ahead of their time back in 1969, so much that their sheer versatility hindered them, unable to be classified for any awards or music recognition. Their timeless approach and harmony proved in the long run and has earned WAR the title of the first and most successful musical crossover phenomenon, that forever fused rock, jazz, Latin and R&B, while transcending racial and cultural barriers with a multi-ethnic line-up.” Lonnie didn’t even think their music would play on the radio, in shock.

WAR @ Paramount Hudson Valley. Photo By NYS’ Mickey Deneher.

Multi-instrumentalist Lonnie Jordan has been a last-standing original member for over 20 years – keeping the essence of WAR alive. “We’re still a jam band like we were back then. I still feel blessed by the people that stayed and supported us over the years. Thank God we have different genres of music that can put us on any stage at any time. It’s been a good ride, and I don’t plan to drop anytime soon [chuckling]. This is my healing power – for me and the people – I am a doctor of music. 

Lonnie dubs WAR as universal street music, which is way beyond the mass of categories that the band carries. 

WAR Press Photo by Dan Atiliano.

“This goes into the universal. Even other aliens from other planets can groove off of our music and understand it. That’s all it is: grooves and messages. Our Rock and roll hall of fans [the people and fans] – they put us here and can take us out.

Lonnie Jordan, WAR.

With age comes experience and Lonnie definitely has some stories to tell, all of which are built and prided in his people. When Lonnie speaks of the people, better known as the bands’ rock and roll hall of fans, there is no doubt Lonnie is speaking to the world in its entirety – down to each molecule, to the stars and beyond. “Just like Jimi Hendrix used to say: are you experienced? Well, we took that message and said: yes we are experienced – because everyday is a new song. We realized it everytime we go into the studio, our engineer would turn the tape on and we would just jam,” said Jordan. In fact, Lonnie said that Hendrix jammed with them back in the day, including the night before Jimi passed. 

Everything shapes WAR and Lonnie himself. From listening to his mother play old classics from Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey, Harry James, Glenn Miller and all of the bands serving our country as far as entertaining the troops, to old black and white films, Lonnie was on the hook. He broke out into Frank Sinatra’s “Laura” after mentioning the title and drifting off into a melody across the phone line. 

A pivotal song inspiring Lonnie, as well as black and white films, humming across the phone.

“All of these movies had beautiful love stories, and they had beautiful music – and that is what inspired me. I was a couch potato as a kid – laying on the floor right in front of the TV (with no room on the couch). After pretty much being tortured by four brothers, and you’re the youngest , all I did was cry. And my brothers used to always tease me and say: Oh yo- you gonna be a singer; you scream loud. And indeed I did,” said Lonnie, reminiscing with spurts of laughter. 

Lonnie connects with his rock and roll hall of fans. Photo By NYS’ Mickey Deneher.

From there Lonnie stuttered on a backlog of musical influences from: Ray Charles, Elvis Presley – when country western music was actually country and western, Ray Price, Bill Evans, Coltrane, Monk, Billie Holliday-types, James Brown, and a slew of Latin influences from Tito Puente and blues acts Jimmy Reed and Memphis Slim. The list goes on, including Bellafonte, “when it wasn’t even called reggae – it was calypso. That’s what I brought to the table back in the day, bringing all these genres together in one salad bowl – that is what WAR is all about,” said Lonnie.

WAR’s Mission states: Our instruments and voices became our weapons of choice and the songs our ammunition. We spoke out against racism, hunger, gangs, crimes, and turf wars, as we embraced all people with hope and the spirit of brotherhood. It’s just as apropos today. Lonnie takes this one step further. 

“We We were raging against wars – a sign of the times. The Vietnam war was raging so we said: hey we are gonna call ourselves WAR – our basis behind it is to wage war, to stop the war and to stop wars in our own neighborhood back in those days. And just let people know they do have a choice not to use guns and bombs, (rather) to use love, or for musicians use your instrument to shoot out rhythms and melodies and most of all harmony – harmony bringing people together; it is also apart of music. We are doctors of communication. Thats how we express ourselves.

“Turf all looks the same. The ground all looks the same. The jungle, concrete, all looks the same. If you asked me to categorize it – I can’t – I conveniently do not remember, especially at 71.

Lonnie Jordan

Unfortunately the bad people [in this world] outweigh the good; the only way the good people can stand strong, and stronger, is by coming together with peace because love outweighs people – bottom line.” 

‘It’s all the same’ – Photo By NYS’ Mickey Deneher @ Paramount Hudson Valley in Peeskill, NY

Be sure to catch WAR this Sunday (7:30-8:30 Set) at Great South Bay Music Festival, and stay tuned for our set coverage on War!

See NYS’ Complete Festival Guide

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