B.B. Dickerson of War Dead at 71

B.B. Dickerson of War (left, with Lee Oskar)
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Michael Putland/Getty Images

Morris "B.B." Dickerson, a founding member of pioneering funk band War, died Friday, April 2 after a long, undisclosed illness, representatives confirmed to Billboard and other outlets. He was 71.

Dickerson played bass with the band since the '60s. The group, known under names like The Creators and Nightshift, was picked by British rocker Eric Burdon to back his newest project after the dissolution of his band The Animals. The group's mix of soul, funk, psychedelic rock and Latin styles - all heard in their neighborhood of Long Beach, California - resulted in a Top 5 hit, "Spill the Wine." During Burdon's brief tour with the group across the United States and Europe, they shared a bill (and a stage) with Jimi Hendrix in London - the guitarist's last public performance before his death days later.

Even after Burdon's departure, War's diverse sound kept audiences coming back for more. 1972's The World is a Ghetto topped Billboard's pop and soul album charts, becoming one of the year's best-sellers. Dickerson sang lead vocals on the title track, which climbed to No. 7 on the Hot 100; follow-up "The Cisco Kid" was their highest-charting song, reaching No. 2. More Top 10s followed, including "Gypsy Man," "Me and Baby Brother," "Why Can't We Be Friends?" and "Low Rider" (propelled by Dickerson's immediately recognizable bass line).

War continued into the '80s after Dickerson departed in 1979, but never reached the same chart success of the '70s. A new generation discovered them through constant hip-hop sampling, and in the mid-'90s, Dickerson joined several original members of the group to tour as the Lowrider Band (with original keyboardist Lonnie Jordan remaining active under the War name).

Dickerson leaves behind a mother, an uncle and children.

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