I love low riders. For the unaware, low riders are cars that have been modified so that they ride low on the tires, virtually scraping the asphalt. Hydraulics are used to lower the cars, but the system also can make the car “jump” (which is awesome). Low riders are usually pretty tricked out, too, featuring custom paint and interiors. They are, in a word, hot.
I’ve always thought it was a product of growing up in SoCal. Los Angeles was the birthplace of the low rider, where the Mexican boys liked to lower their cars and cruise the streets. I was surprised when I did a little research to find out that low riding had been around since the 1940s (that would make it contemporary with the zoot suit). The hydraulics and other stuff didn’t really come around until the 1960s, though.
War, a multicultural SoCal band originating in Long Beach, played a form of funk and rock that was as natural to the streets of L.A. as the low rider. They were originally a backup band for Eric Burdon (formerly of the Animals), and had a hit with “Spill the Wine.” They went on after Burdon left the group in the middle of a tour. They were pretty successful in the early 70s, but soon tailed off. “Low Rider” is the quintessential cruising song, just the right rhythm for slinking along Hollywood or Santa Monica or PCH, tapping your fingers on the steering wheel.
Freedom and fun. No obligations, or none that are demanding your attention. Looking cool, feeling cool, in your ride. That’s what this song represents.