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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
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Up, Up And Away / The Magic Garden

1. Up, Up And Away

3. Which Way To Nowhere

4. California My Way

5. Misty Roses

6. Go Where You Wanna Go

7. Never Gonna Be The Same

8. Pattern People

9. Rosecrans Blvd.

10. Learn How To Fly

11. Poor Side Of Town

14. Too Poor To Die

15. Prologue

16. The Magic Garden

17. Summer's Daughter

18. Dreams/Pax/Nepenthe

19. Carpet Man

20. Ticket To Ride

22. The Girl's Song

23. The Worst That Could Happen

24. Orange Air

25. Paper Cup

26. Epilogue

x

Track List: Up Up & Away: The Definitive Collection

Disc 1

1. Up-Up And Away

2. Go Where You Wanna Go

3. Learn How To Fly

4. Another Day Another Heartache

5. Paper Cup

6. Carpet Man

7. Stoned Soul Picnic

8. Sweet Blindness

9. California Soul

10. Wedding Bell Blues

11. Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In

12. Workin' On A Groovy Thing

13. Blowing Away

14. The Girl's Song

15. Worst That Could Happen

16. Orange Air

17. I'll Be Loving You Forever

Disc 2

1. One Less Bell To Answer

2. Puppet Man

3. Save The Country

4. Medley-The Declaration-A Change Is Gonna Come- People Gotta Be Free

5. Dimension Five

6. On The Beach

7. Loves Lines, Angles And Rhymes

8. Light Sings

9. Time And Love

10. Never My Love

11. Together Let's Find Love

12. (Last Night) I Didn't Get To Sleep At All

13. If I Could Reach You

14. Black Patch

15. Living Together, Growing Together

16. Everything's Been Changed

17. Ashes To Ashes

18. Flashback

19. No Love In The Room

x

Track List: Greatest Hits On Earth

1. (Last Night) I Didn't Get To Sleep At All

2. Stoned Soul Picnic

3. One Less Bell To Answer

5. Wedding Bell Blues

6. Save The Country

8. Puppet Man

9. Up, Up And Away

10. Never My Love

x

Track List: The Age Of Aquuarius

1. Aquarius/ Let The Sunshine In

2. Blowing Away

3. Skinny Man

4. Wedding Bell Blues

5. Don'tcha Hear Me Callin' To Ya

6. The Hideaway

7. Workin' On A Groovy Thing

8. Let It Be Me

9. Sunshine Of Your Love

10. The Winds Of Heaven

11. Those Were The Days

Comments

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Steely Mac - i don't think there is a good answer to your question. But I do believe that today's music is so much different from the late 60's and 70's because the attitude of many people metamorphose d to a different level reveling in hate, distrust, anger, vulgarities, etc. The beautiful voices and compositions of the past simply don't work for those that have this illiterate mind set. You asked a great thought provoking question!
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Can someone explain to me how full rich vocal harmony doesn't appeal to radio. ..or digital media listeners anymore? This and stuff like by the Association are so humanly enriching. Jus sayin.
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NEVER WAVERED BRIAN !!! MY MIND AND HEART WERE ALWAYS BEHIND AND BESIDE YOU !!!
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THANK YOU VERY MUCH BRIAN!!! LIKE THE SONG SAYS ""LAST NIGHT I DIDN'T GET SLEEP AT ALL"" !!
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every song they did,,,perfec t
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fidelperezda r i a s
Aquarius!!!
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Marilyn McCoo! What vocals ! And what about the backup band-"The Wrecking Crew !" A group of L.A. studio musicians which included drummer Hal Blaine & guitarist Glen Campbell!
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Such great harmony!!!
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desiree.whee l e r
had their 45 as a kid, love it Aquarius.... . . . . . . . .
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I love this group and always will. This is what you can real music and not this mess these so called singers sing now....
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5Th Dimension is, AWESOME!! Thanks Pandora!!!
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When Marilyn McCoo opens her pipes i've gotten goosebumps for over 40 years. Listen for her.
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Wow, what a song!
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I love the 5th Dimension! Regretfully I had to delete the 5th Dimension station because Pandora kept playing brutally ugly and offensive rap and hip-hop stuff (can't call them songs) on it. What's up with that? How that is similar to beautiful music like the 5th Dimension is beyond me. I still get to hear the 5th Dimension through other related artists fortunately.
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I love the 5th Dimension! Regretfully I had to delete the 5th Dimension station because Pandora kept playing brutally ugly and offensive rap and hip-hop stuff (can't call them songs) on it. What's up with that? How that is similar to beautiful music like the 5th Dimension is beyond me. I still get to hear the 5th Dimension through other related artists though.
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They were certainly in the category Best of the 60's and so popular. I heard they were reduced to singing on cruise ships a few years ago, which saddens me.
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They were certainly in the category Best of the 60's) and so popular. I heard they were reduced to singing on cruise ships a few years ago, which saddens me.
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THIS SONG (NEVER MY LOVE) IS JUST AN ORDINARY SONG IF ANY OTHER SINGER IS SINGING THIS SONG, BUT MARILYN MCCOO'S SINGING STYLE MADE THIS SONG ONE OF THE BEST SONGS EVER IF NOT THE BEST! SAD TO SAY THAT THERE'S NO OTHER SINGER LIKE HER ANYMORE.

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I really love the 5th dimension
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The most perfect number,guess ?,21
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young and the world was an oyster!..bes t music ever
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LOVE THIS...WISH IT WERE TRUE...60S ALLSOLD OUT..NOW THEIR A CORPORATE REALITY...MY BROTHERS SOLD THEIR SOULS...WELC O M E TO AMERICA:(
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Haven't heard last night (i didn't get to sleep) for ages....love their sound
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Great music & even greater harmony!!!
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This is so good!!! Great times!
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dragonlady60 8 8
Wow....Get times....fun times
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jvidican
Let the Sun Shine!!!!!! Stars too....
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Love this song miss those days.
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dragonlady60 8 8
my fave song by them..uplift i n g ! ! !
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Brings me back to such a great time in my life
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they were great....I remember partying to them...lol.. . l i v e d in Newport, r.i. it was a blast,,,,
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Thrilled
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JUST LIKE KENNETH SAID...
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There is no group around today that can come close to THE 5th Dimension.
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rf2nd
This group along with Earth, Wind & Fire are among the best of the 70s. No one today can touch them.
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Groovy Thing. This group is the best along with the Mamas & The Papas. Nothing like them anymore! RQ/rlh
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the greatest music that there was!!!!!!!!! ! !
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BOY I LOVED THE 5TH DEMENTIONS and MARILYN MACOO because my name is MARILYN too good music
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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
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Marilyn MacCoo....Se x i e s t Voice Ever...
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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!!
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axell6060
i'heard of them in mid 70's when i was in high school.loved thier music . even today 2013 i' adore them still. :)
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Was already in my late twenties but loved their sound and still do
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Loved this song... d b
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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
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VERY GROOVY
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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.
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how did things get so ungroovy?
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this group was the best of sixties and seventies for me.
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johnharris48
Marilyn..you r very sexy voice always turned me on, and still does..Wow
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