Morris “B.B.” Dickerson, co-founding member, co-vocalist, and bassist of War, has died at the age of 71.
According to Billboard, Dickerson passed away Friday (April 2nd) following a long, undisclosed illness.
War’s origins date back to the late 1960s, when Dickerson and several other future members of War served as the backing band for football player Deacon Jones. After record producer Jerry Goldstein caught the band in concert, he linked them up with former Animals singer Eric Burdon — and the rest was history.
Burdon and War released their debut album, Eric Burdon Declares “War”, in April 1970. It peaked at No. 18 on US albums chart, due in large part to the hit single, “Spill the Wine”, which peaked at No. 3 on the singles chart. The group’s sophomore double album, The Black-Man’s Burdon, was released just months later and included covers of The Rolling Stones’ “Paint It Black” and Moody Blues’ “Nights in White Satin”.
In between recording sessions for those two albums, Burdon and War toured extensively throughout 1970. Their most notable gig came on September 18th of that year, when Jimi Hendrix joined them on stage at Ronnie Scott’s Club in London for a 35-minute set. It marked the final performance of Hendrix’s career, as the guitar legend was found dead the following day.
Burdon’s tenure in War would prove short lived, as he departed the band at the end of 1970. The remaining members soldiered on and soon entered the studio to record a new album simply titled, War, which included the gold-certified single “Slippin’ into Darkness”. But it was their follow-up effort, 1971’s The World Is a Ghetto, which solidified War’s place in music history. The album was both critically lauded and a commercial smash, hitting No. 2 on the Billboard albums chart, and producing two top 10 singles in “The Cisco Kid” and “The World Is a Ghetto” (the latter of which featured Dickerson on lead vocals). By year’s end, The World Is a Ghetto was recognized as the best-selling album of all of 1971.
War’s next album, 1973’s Deliver the World, brought the band another top 10 single, “Gypsy Man”, on the way to selling two million album copies worldwide.
Dickerson left War in 1979, marking the end of a prolific era that saw the release of 12 studio albums — seven of which achieved gold status.
In the 1990s, Dickerson reunited with several former War bandmates to form a new group called Lowrider Band, although their activities were limited to touring.