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The 5th Dimension

The Fifth Dimension's unique sound lay somewhere between smooth, elegant soul and straightforward, adult-oriented pop, often with a distinct flower-power vibe. Although they appealed more to mainstream listeners than to a hip, hardcore R&B audience, they had a definite ear for contemporary trends; their selection of material helped kickstart the notable songwriting careers of Jimmy Webb and Laura Nyro, and their biggest hit was a medley from the hippie musical Hair, "Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In." The group's soaring, seamless harmonies were given appropriately sweeping, orchestrated period production by Bones Howe, which often placed their records closer to California-style sunshine pop. That's actually part of the reason why the best singles from the Fifth Dimension's heyday of the late '60s and early '70s still evoke their era with uncanny precision.

The Fifth Dimension began life in Los Angeles in 1965 as the Versatiles. Lamonte McLemore, Ron Townson, and Billy Davis, Jr. all grew up in St. Louis, and moved to Los Angeles independently of one another; each was trained in a different area -- jazz, opera, and gospel/R&B, respectively. Marilyn McCoo was the first female singer to join, and she was soon augmented by Florence LaRue; both were ex-beauty pageant winners who'd attended college in the L.A. area. Their demo tape was rejected by Motown, but after a one-off single for Bronco, they caught the attention of singer Johnny Rivers, who'd just set up his own label, Soul City. Rivers signed the group in 1966 on the condition that they update their name and image, and thus the Fifth Dimension was born. Their first Soul City single, "I'll Be Lovin' You Forever," was a flop, but a cover of the Mamas & the Papas' "Go Where You Wanna Go" climbed into the Top 20.

Budding young songwriter Jimmy Webb ("Macarthur Park," "By the Time I Get to Phoenix," etc.) supplied the Fifth Dimension with their breakthrough hit, 1967's "Up, Up and Away." An ode to the pleasures of flying in a beautiful balloon, the song became the group's first Top Ten hit, peaking at number seven, and went on to sweep the Grammy Awards, taking home five total (including Record of the Year and Song of the Year). Its success pushed the Fifth Dimension's first album, also titled Up, Up and Away, to gold sales status. The group stuck with Webb for its second album, The Magic Garden, which featured only one non-Webb composition; it produced a couple of minor hits in "Paper Cup" and "Carpet Man," but nothing on the level of "Up, Up and Away." Their third LP was thus more diverse, featuring several compositions by another up-and-coming songwriter, Laura Nyro. The title cut, Nyro's "Stoned Soul Picnic," went all the way to number three in the spring of 1968, selling over a million copies and putting Nyro on the map. The Nyro-penned follow-up single, "Sweet Blindness," also reached the Top 20.

The Fifth Dimension's success peaked in 1969 when the group caught a Broadway production of Hair, and immediately decided to cut a medley of two songs from the show. "Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In" was a monster hit and grew to become one of the era's defining pop records; it spent six weeks at number one, sold a whopping three million copies, and won the group its second Record of the Year Grammy. Accompanying LP The Age of Aquarius went gold and nearly hit number one, and their Nyro-penned follow-up single, "Wedding Bell Blues," followed its predecessor to number one as well. The song was something of a mirror of real life; Billy Davis and Marilyn McCoo were married that year, and Florence LaRue also married group manager Marc Gordon.

Johnny Rivers sold Soul City to the Bell label in 1970, and the first Fifth Dimension LP on Bell was that year's Portrait, which spawned several minor hits and the Top Five smash "One Less Bell to Answer," a Burt Bacharach composition. 1970 also brought a controversial performance at the White House; although the group sang "The Declaration," a socially conscious critique, the simple act of appearing before President Nixon further alienated the Fifth Dimension from the black wing of their fan base, at a time when their releases had already begun to peak higher on the pop charts than on the R&B side. Indeed, their Bell recordings moved farther into soft pop and away from R&B and the gently trippy vibes of their late-'60s material. Their album sales began to taper off, and their vocal arrangements now tended to spotlight soloists rather than unified harmonies. McCoo emerged as a focal point, singing lead on the 1972 Top Ten hits "(Last Night) I Didn't Get to Sleep at All" and "If I Could Reach You." They proved to be the group's last major successes; another Bacharach tune, 1973's "Living Together, Growing Together," barely made the Top 40, and the following year's Soul & Inspiration LP marked the end of their relationship with producer Bones Howe. 1975's Earthbound was another full-length collaboration with Jimmy Webb, and much like The Magic Garden, its thematic unity failed to produce a significant hit single. It was also the last album by the original lineup; McCoo and Davis left the group to form a duo, and scored a big hit in 1976 with "You Don't Have to Be a Star."

The remaining trio carried on with new members, and nearly had a hit in 1976 with the LaRue-sung "Love Hangover"; unfortunately, Motown issued Diana Ross' own version shortly after the Fifth Dimension's hit the charts, and hers proved far more popular. Strangely enough, the Fifth Dimension signed with Motown not long after, releasing two albums in 1978. Townson briefly left the group to try a solo career, but soon returned, as the group resigned itself to the nostalgia circuit; meanwhile, McCoo served a stint as the host of Solid Gold. Phyllis Battle joined in the mid-'80s, and the original quintet reunited in 1990 for a tour. In 1995, the quintet of LaRue, Townson, McLemore, Battle, and Greg Walker recorded a new album, In the House, for Click Records. In 1998, Willie Williams replaced Townson, who passed away in 2001 due to kidney failure. Battle departed in 2002, to be replaced by Van Jewel. ~ Steve Huey, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography


"Workin' On A GroovyThing" - is awesome!
There is no group around today that can come close to THE 5th Dimension.
This group along with Earth, Wind & Fire are among the best of the 70s. No one today can touch them.
Groovy Thing. This group is the best along with the Mamas & The Papas. Nothing like them anymore! RQ/rlh
the greatest music that there was!!!!!!!!! ! !
BOY I LOVED THE 5TH DEMENTIONS and MARILYN MACOO because my name is MARILYN too good music
mike1967patr i o t s
Loved their Music since I was 4 years old, they make you joyous, sad and they were thought provoking during their time. With their meaningful lyrics
Marilyn MacCoo....Se x i e s t Voice Ever...
I saw Marilyn MacCoo and Billy Davis, Jr. at Yoshi's in Oakland, California last month and they sang beautifully- Stoned Soul Picnic, Up, Up and Away and Aquarius/ Let the Sunshine, among other hits. Marilyn looked and sounded beautiful! Billy sang a wonderful blues number. What a fantastic, groovy, couple!!
i'heard of them in mid 70's when i was in high school.loved thier music . even today 2013 i' adore them still. :)
Was already in my late twenties but loved their sound and still do
Loved this song... d b
In my youth I had the pleasure of going to the Aquarius Theater in Hollywood to see Hair. The Viet Nam War, Hippies, free love, Timothy Leary tune in, turn on, drop out, Psycodelic music, LSD, Woodstock, Sunny and Shair, Moody Blues, Jefferson Air Plane. I never had any interest in the pot and drugs but what wild days those were for America. At least the women weren't tattoo'd with a bolt in their nose. DMB
5th Dimension a sound like no other. The Harmonies timeless. And admittedly, I'm a rocker. But good music is good music. And these guys are the classic example of good mood music.
how did things get so ungroovy?
this group was the best of sixties and seventies for me.
johnharris48 r very sexy voice always turned me on, and still does..Wow
I remember, I was in 6th grade singing this song with a group of kids in my class for a show we had put on for our parents that night. It was parent/teach e r night. I remember like it was yesterday. Great song! Great memories. Now I'm 55 years old. It's amazing what brings back memories to your childhood. Love this song!
Aquarius Muther Effers
Anything the 5th Dimension sings is great. I remember when..... Thanks for the many great memories.
This brings back fantastic memories of my late teen years..wish I was 18 again...Life is so short..
Absolutely love her voice. This is one of my favorites... R e a l l y takes be back.. I miss high school ...
Last Night (I couldn't get to sleep at all) and Aquarius/Let the Sunshine are my top 2 faves.
Her voice is so smooth, easy to listen to!
I love Marilyn McCoo's voice!

Wedding Bell Blues is my favorite...b r i n g s back thoughts of all-night road-trips to see an old college girlfriend.. . a n d of another lady, a decade later, who made us laugh when she'd sing ...marry me, Leo instead of Bill (my birthday is in August). I finally did marry her...didn't work out. Eventually married that old college girlfriend.. . going on 20 years together. Thank you, , Marilyn McCoo...for the music and the memories...
One Less Bell To Answer is my favorite song by the group.
love this so much, reminds me of my mom signing and dancing around to these great jams
LOVE the 5th Dimension ....I had a boyfriend named Bill so I always think of him!
Give me chills listneing to the 5th dimension. Totally takes me back to Brooklyn, being young and lving with Mom and Dad. I grew up in a house full of music. Just so wonderful to hear them again. Marilyn McCoo was my favorite. B ut, together they were all so talented...W i s h we could bring those days back.....
Listening to these vocal artists brings me back to growing up in Southern alif with my parents..... f o n d memories
I love Marilyn McCoo! Not only is she a fantastic singer but she is gorgeous!
Growing up this was always one of my favorites, especially since I am an AQUARIUS!
Smooth, easy on the ears. Always a pleasure to hear.
Uplifting vocals, horns and piano. Not like today's rap-which is crap and will always be crap. No blinged out gangstas and ho's. Bring back the 70's!
i truly loved the music of the fifth dimension,ma r a l y n McCoo's smooth, sexy and soulful voice, like no other!!
Classic and Timeless songs
classic songs forever

OMGosh...thi s is one of my ALL time favorite tunes...just incredible.
I was a born in '65 and this is one of the THREE songs I actually remember hearing as a baby in North Hollywood!! This and the others helped form my musical wonder (major love of music).
what a song...what a voice...
Love her
I was about 14 or 15 yrs old when they hit their peak, '65 or ' many changes happening in the world. What a pleasure to listen to them in a convertible with the top down, and your girlfriend by your side. Nice memories.
dbstrickland 5 9
Where am I ?... How'd I get here?... Last thing I remember it was 1967.
Terrific soft rock - they did really nice adaptations of some of Laura Nyro's best songs (Stone Soul Picnic - Sweet Blindness - Wedding Bell Blues - Blowing Away - Save the Country). Highly recommended.
First concert I ever went to. My dad took me to see them in the Dayton Arena when I was 12. Still love them 40 years later.
Marilyn has a voice that has a quality that is soothingly yet dynamic. I never tire of listening to her, wish she had recorded more songs.
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