Half a century ago, “One Less Bell to Answer” was a smash hit for The 5th Dimension. On lead voice: Marilyn McCoo, touching a nerve with a timeless torch song:
She still does all these years later… and correspondent Nancy Giles couldn’t resist singing with… especially with the encouragement of Billy Davis Jr., a founding member of The 5th Dimension, and McCoo’s husband.
“You’ve been married 51 years? Is that right?” Giles asked.
“Where did the time go?” Davis said.
It goes quickly, but luckily their music always brings us back.
The 5th Dimension has listed 20 Top 40 Singles. Selling millions of albums, they were part of variety shows on radio and television
McCoo said, “When we do our performances and people get up and dance the aisles, especially a lot of people our age, they remember the time.”
Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Davis was raised in gospel and blues. He was part of several groups and even ran a talent agency. Among his clients: an unknown young woman from Tennessee. “Well, she was Ann Bullock back then; we didn’t know her as Tina Turner yet, you know? he said.
Marilyn McCoo was from New Jersey. The daughter of two doctors, she preferred music to medicine and was an aspiring singer in California when she first met Davis.
“Billy came to Los Angeles in search of a record-breaking career, and met Ron Townson and Lamonte McLemore, whom he knew from St. Louis,” said McCoo. “And they decided to form a group. Florence LaRue and I ended up being the other two members.”
They called themselves the Versatiles. The chemistry was there… but one thing had to go: the name. “We needed something more up to date,” Davis said. “So Ron Townson and his wife invented The 5th Dimension.”
“It was, like, five people, and the dimension was about the music,” McCoo said. “And no one had a name like that there.”
And no one sounded like them.
“Go Where You Wanna Go” was their first hit. Their second came thanks to writer Jimmy Webb, who had just returned from a hot air balloon festival.
McCoo recalled: He came back and he said, ‘It was so beautiful. And so he started playing ‘Up, Up and Away’. And we all loved it so much. But we said, ‘Oh, that’s beautiful, but it’s never going to be a success.’ “
Giles asked, “You didn’t think so? Really. Why didn’t you think you would?”
“Well, we thought the song was too pretty,” Davis replied.
Pretty – and popular! And in the tumultuous year of 1968, “Up, Up and Away” won 6 Grammy Awards.
Then, a classic: “Aquarius / Let the Sunshine In”, two numbers of the Broadway musical “Hair” merged.
McCoo said, “We were in the studio and we had done all of ‘Let the Sunshine In’ over and over and over again. Our producer said to Billy, he said, ‘Okay, Billy, now it’s up to you. studio and take him to church! And he did! ”
Other Top 10 songs followed: “Stone Soul Picnic”, “I Didn’t Get to Sleep at All” and “Wedding Bell Blues”, recorded when McCoo and Davis were dating.
“Billy came to see me and he begged me to marry him,” McCoo said.
“So you knew at that point you were like ‘Is she the right one’?” Giles asked.
“Yeah, yeah,” Davis said.
“And Marilyn, were you a little more shy?”
“I was like, ‘We have such a good relationship. Do we want to ruin everything with marriage? “”, McCoo laughs.
They married in 1969. But as they got closer, The 5th Dimension broke up.
“We’ve talked about it at length,” McCoo said, “and we said,“ If we don’t try to see where it can go, we’ll never know.
A big risk that paid off in 1976, when a producer brought them a song that would go up to No. 1.
Their story is still being written.
McCoo and Davis continue to perform, and this year will be releasing “Blackbird”, a collection of songs by John Lennon and Paul McCartney. This is their first studio album in nearly three decades.
McCoo said: “We are thinking about the things that are going on in our country right now and we feel, as a country, that we need to stay united.”
Staying together and singing together, so like now, Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr. wouldn’t have done it any other way.
Davis said, “Music is our passion. We’ve wanted to do this since we were kids. Doing it with your spouse? It doesn’t get any better than that!”
Story produced by Gabriel Falcon. Publisher: Ed Givnish.