War bassist and co-founder Morris "B.B." Dickerson has died aged 71

BB Dickerson
(Image credit: Michael Putland/Getty Images)

Bassist Morris "B.B." Dickerson, a co-founder of 1970s funk-rock-soul legends War, has died aged 71.

A representative confirmed to Billboard that Dickerson passed away peacefully at a hospital in Long Beach, California, on April 2 after a long, undisclosed illness.

A Southern California native, Dickerson began playing bass at the age of 12 and eventually joined a band, the Creators, that released several singles on Dore Records.

In 1968, the Creators morphed into Nightshift and began backing football player-turned-singer Deacon Jones.

The following year, record producer Jerry Goldstein caught a Nightshift performance with Jones at the Rag Doll club in Hollywood, and paired them up with former Animals vocalist Eric Burdon in a new group, Eric Burdon and War. The band’s 1970 debut, Eric Burdon Declares "War", launched the hit single Spill the Wine, co-written by Dickerson.

War toured extensively that year, including sharing the stage with Jimi Hendrix at Ronnie Scott's Club in London on September 18, a gig notable for being Hendrix’s last public performance. Reportedly, Hendrix joined War onstage for the final half-hour of their second set.

Burdon departed the band after one more album, after which the group was rechristened simply War. They soon scaled even greater heights, with Dickerson co-writing several of the group’s biggest hits, including The Cisco Kid, Why Can't We Be Friends and the classic Low Rider, which was propelled by Dickerson’s iconic bass line. In addition to mainstream success, War became known as a pioneer act fusing funk, Latin, soul and rock styles.

Dickerson remained a member of War until 1979. In the ’90s, he joined three of the five surviving original core members of the group, guitarist Howard E. Scott, harmonica player Lee Oskar and drummer Harold Brown, in the offshoot act the Lowrider Band.

Dickerson is survived by his mother, his uncle and his children. Donations can be made in his name to MusiCares.

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Richard Bienstock

Rich is the co-author of the best-selling Nöthin' But a Good Time: The Uncensored History of the '80s Hard Rock Explosion. He is also a recording and performing musician, and a former editor of Guitar World magazine and executive editor of Guitar Aficionado magazine. He has authored several additional books, among them Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, the companion to the documentary of the same name.