The 5th Dimension
The 5th Dimension in 1969.
Back row: Townson and McLemore.
Front row: LaRue, Davis, and McCoo
|Origin||Los Angeles, California, United States|
|Genres||R&B, pop, soul, sunshine pop, psychedelic soul|
(until 1975 in original incarnation)
|Labels||Soul City, Imperial, Bell Records, Arista, ABC Records, Motown|
Billy Davis, Jr.
See: Membership section for detailed listing
Formed as the Versatiles in late 1965, the group changed its name to the hipper "the 5th Dimension" by 1966. They became well-known during the late 1960s and early 1970s for their popular hits: "Up, Up and Away", "Stoned Soul Picnic", "Medley: Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In (The Flesh Failures)", "Wedding Bell Blues", "Never My Love", "One Less Bell to Answer", "(Last Night) I Didn't Get to Sleep at All", and The Magic Garden LP.
The five original members were Billy Davis Jr., Florence LaRue, Marilyn McCoo, Lamonte McLemore, and Ronald Townson. They have recorded for several labels over their long careers. Their first work appeared on the Soul City label, which was started by Imperial Records/United Artists Records recording artist Johnny Rivers. The group later recorded for Bell/Arista Records, ABC Records, and Motown Records.
Some of the songwriters popularized by the 5th Dimension went on to careers of their own, especially Ashford & Simpson, who wrote "California Soul". The group is also notable for having more success with the songs of Laura Nyro than Nyro did herself, particularly with "Stoned Soul Picnic", "Sweet Blindness", "Wedding Bell Blues", "Blowin' Away", and "Save the Country". The group also recorded songs by well-known songwriters such as "One Less Bell to Answer", written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, and the songs and music of Jimmy Webb, who wrote their hit "Up, Up and Away." The group recorded an album composed almost entirely of Webb songs called The Magic Garden.
In the early 1960s, Lamonte McLemore and Marilyn McCoo got together with three friends from Los Angeles--Harry Elston, Lawrence Summers. and Fritz Baskett--to form a group called 'the Hi-Fis' (which later became 'the Vocals'). In 1963, they sang at local clubs while taking lessons from a vocal coach. In 1964, they came to the attention of Ray Charles, who took them on tour with him the following year. He produced a single by the group, "Lonesome Mood", a jazz-type song that gained local attention. However, internal disagreements caused Elston to go his own way, eventually leading to his forming the Friends of Distinction, with latter day Hi-Fis member, Floyd Butler.
McLemore sought to form another group and started looking for members to join him and McCoo. McCoo, who had studied with the respected vocal coach Eddie Beal, had appeared in high school and college musical productions and was known for her way with a torch song. McLemore found Florence LaRue, who had received training in singing, dancing, and violin; and who won the talent portion at the Miss Bronze California contest, which McLemore was assigned to photograph. (McCoo had won the contest the prior year.) About the same time LaRue was approached to join the group, McLemore recruited an old friend, Ronald Townson, who at age six was singing in choirs and gospel groups in his hometown of St. Louis, Missouri. His grandmother fostered his career by arranging for private voice and acting lessons as he grew up. In his teens, he toured with Dorothy Dandridge and Nat King Cole, joined the Wings Over Jordan Choir, and played a small part in the film Porgy and Bess. He demonstrated his skill as a classical artist by placing third in the Metropolitan Opera auditions held in St. Louis. After finishing high school, he worked his way through Lincoln University by conducting the school and church choir. After graduating, he organized his own 25-member gospel choir.
Another of McLemore's friends from St. Louis days, Billy Davis Jr., started singing in gospel choirs at an early age. He later saved enough money to buy a cocktail lounge in St. Louis, which he used as a base for experimenting with musical groups. When asked to join McLemore's new group, he agreed, while hoping for a solo contract from Motown.
The members began rehearsing as the Versatiles in late 1965 and auditioned for Marc Gordon, who headed Motown's Los Angeles office. Although Motown rejected the group's demo tape, Gordon agreed to manage them and brought them to the attention of Johnny Rivers, who had just started his own label, Soul City Records. Their first Soul City single, "I'll Be Lovin' You Forever", was a successful single.
In 1965 the Mamas & the Papas' first single, lead member John Phillips' "Go Where You Wanna Go", failed to open the foursome's chart career. At the suggestion of Rivers and their manager Marc Gordon, the 5th Dimension covered the same song virtually note-for-note (except for the last verse's upward modulation), and their early 1967 version climbed into the top 20 on R&B and pop stations and peaked at No. 16 on the Hot 100, opening the quintet's chart career.
The budding songwriter Jimmy Webb supplied the group with their breakthrough hit, "Up, Up and Away", a mid-1967 No. 7 hit that won five Grammy Awards. The following year, the group scored major hit singles with Laura Nyro's songs "Stoned Soul Picnic" (U.S. #3) and "Sweet Blindness" (U.S. No. 13). The group received a gold record for their album Stoned Soul Picnic.
That album included "California Soul", which peaked at No. 25 in February 1969. Weeks later the group's success broke wide open, with "Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In" from the musical Hair topping the Hot 100 for six straight weeks in April and May, and another Nyro song, "Wedding Bell Blues", doing the same for the first three full weeks in November. Their cover of Neil Sedaka's "Workin' On a Groovy Thing" went to No. 20 in between. Those four singles kept the group on the Hot 100 for all but four weeks in 1969. By some reckonings, "Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In" was the biggest hit single for 1969.
Later top 20 hits included 1970's "One Less Bell to Answer" (U.S. No. 2), 1971's "Love's Lines, Angles and Rhymes" (U.S. No. 19) and "Never My Love" (U.S. No. 12), 1972's "(Last Night) I Didn't Get to Sleep at All" (U.S. No. 8) and "If I Could Reach You" (U.S. No. 10). The group had seven other top 40 hits, the last being 1973's "Living Together, Growing Together" (U.S. No. 32) from the film Lost Horizon.
The 5th Dimension performed "Sweet Blindness" on Frank Sinatra's 1968 TV special Francis Albert Sinatra Does His Thing and sang "Workin' On a Groovy Thing" and "Wedding Bell Blues" on Woody Allen's The Woody Allen Special in 1969. They introduced "Puppet Man" and "One Less Bell To Answer" as guests in the It Takes a Thief episode "To Sing a Song of Murder" in 1970; the latter song was used as a plot device in which its closing notes were to activate a bomb in an assassination attempt of the head of a fictitious country.
They appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show twice in 1969. The group performed and sang a medley consisting of "What the World Needs Now Is Love" and the Beatles' "All You Need Is Love" on February 23, 1969, and performed and sang "Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In" on May 18, 1969, the day after the medley fell from the Hot 100 summit. That same year the group appeared on the British show This Is Tom Jones, singing "Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In" and "Got My Mojo Workin'".
The 5th Dimension were the featured act of a July 28, 1969, CBS broadcast of highlights from the Harlem Cultural Festival, the "Black Woodstock" gathering in Mount Morris Park that drew 300,000 festival attendees over six shows. The New York Times reported the 5th Dimension show drew 60,000 alone.
The 5th Dimension: An Odyssey in the Cosmic Universe of Peter Max, a television special, aired on CBS on May 21, 1970.
During the last season of The Ed Sullivan Show, Sullivan dedicated the entire February 21, 1971, episode to the fifth anniversary of the 5th Dimension. The group opened the show with "Love's Lines, Angles and Rhymes" and later joined Connie Stevens for "Puppet Man". They came back for the last 15 minutes of the show and sang their hits "Up, Up and Away", "One Less Bell to Answer", "Stoned Soul Picnic", "Wedding Bell Blues", and finished up with "Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In". This appearance was the group's last on Sullivan.
The 5th Dimension Traveling Sunshine Show, a television special, aired on August 18, 1971.
In 1975, McCoo and Davis, who had married on 26 July 1969, left the group to do collective and individual projects. They went on to have success as a duo with "Your Love" and the chart topper "You Don't Have to Be a Star (To Be in My Show)" which won them their seventh Grammy award.
McCoo served a lengthy 1980s stint as the host of the TV show Solid Gold. The remaining trio carried on with new members, and nearly had a hit in 1976 with the LaRue-sung "Love Hangover"; however, Motown issued Diana Ross' original version shortly after the 5th Dimension's hit the charts, and hers soared to the top of the charts. The group signed with Motown not long after, releasing two albums in 1978. R&B singer Lou Courtney was in the group briefly in 1978 and 1979, Joyce Wright joined in 1979, and Phyllis Battle joined in 1988.
The original quintet reunited in 1990 and 1991 for a tour. Townson left the group to try a solo career, but soon returned, as the group resigned itself to the nostalgia circuit. 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 died in 2001 due to kidney failure. Battle departed in 2002, to be replaced by Van Jewell. McLemore left the group in March 2006.
As of April 2009, the group was actively touring as "The 5th Dimension featuring Florence LaRue", led by LaRue, with Willie Williams, Leonard Tucker, Patrice Morris, and Floyd Smith.
Celebrating 45 years of marriage, McCoo and Davis continue to tour separately from the 5th Dimension as their own act: "Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis, Jr." In October 2011, McCoo and Davis were featured on the Cliff Richard album Soulicious, appearing live on stage in the tour of the same name, reprising several of their hits as well as dueting with Richard. In 2013, McCoo and Davis released their own double-CD project: Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis, Jr. Live.
On February 14, 2015, McLemore released an autobiographical memoir, From Hobo Flats to The 5th Dimension: A Life Fulfilled in Baseball, Photography and Music.
On June 21, 2016, the 5th Dimension featuring Florence LaRue performed in The Villages, Florida, just days after the 2016 Orlando nightclub shooting. LaRue took the opportunity to share her thoughts on the tragedy: "We will not be terrorized. We know what's happening in the world, but this is a song about good health, love, peace and happiness. We still believe in those things today," she stated before the group performed "Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In".
In November 2017, the 5th Dimension appeared for 18 performances at the Andy Williams Performing Arts Centre in Branson, Missouri, in the Andy Williams Christmas Extravaganza hosted by Jimmy Osmond.
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McCoo and Davis left the group in November 1975. Since then, other members have included:
|Original lineup||Florence LaRue||Marilyn McCoo||Billy Davis Jr.||LaMonte McLemore||Ron Townson|
|1966-75||Florence LaRue||Marilyn McCoo||Billy Davis Jr.||LaMonte McLemore||Ron Townson|
|1975||Eloise Laws||Danny Beard|
|1978-79||Lou Courtney||Mic Bell|
Joyce Wright Pierce
|1980-86||Joyce Wright Pierce||Ron Townson|
|1987||Joyce Wright Pierce|
|1989-92||Eugene Barry Hill|
|2006-07||Valerie Davis||Leonard Tucker||Michael Mishaw|
|2007||Jennifer Lee Warren/|
|Year||Song||US||US AC||US R&B||CAN||UK||AUS||NZ||B-side||Certification||Album|
|1966||"Go Where You Wanna Go"||16||-||-||9||-||75||-||"Too Poor to Die" (Non-album track)||Up, Up and Away|
|1967||"Another Day, Another Heartache"||45||-||-||-||-||-||-||"Rosecrans Blvd."|
|"Up, Up and Away"||7||9||-||18||-||1||9||"Which Way to Nowhere"|
|"Paper Cup"||34||-||-||17||-||47||-||"Poor Side of Town" (from Up, Up and Away)||The Magic Garden|
|1968||"Carpet Man"||29||-||-||3||-||94||-||"The Magic Garden"|
|"Stoned Soul Picnic"||3||-||2||3||-||-||-||"The Sailboat Song"||US: Gold||Stoned Soul Picnic|
|"Sweet Blindness"||13||-||45||15||-||19||10||"Bobbie's Blues (Who Do You Think Of?)"|
|"California Soul"||25||-||49||-||-||-||-||"It'll Never Be the Same Again"|
|1969||"Medley: Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In (The Flesh Failures)"||1||1||6||1||11||4||6||"Don'tcha Hear Me Callin' to Ya?"||US: Gold||The Age of Aquarius|
|"Workin' On a Groovy Thing"||20||9||15||17||-||48||-||"Broken Wing Bird" (from Stoned Soul Picnic)|
|"Wedding Bell Blues"||1||1||23||3||16||20||1||"Lovin' Stew" (from Stoned Soul Picnic)||US: Gold|
|"Blowing Away"||21||7||-||24||-||55||18||"Skinny Man"|
|1970||"A Change Is Gonna Come/People Got to Be Free"||60||-||-||-||-||-||-||"The Declaration"||Portrait|
|"The Declaration"||64||35||-||-||-||-||-||B-side of above|
|"The Girls' Song"||43||6||-||-||-||97||-||"It'll Never Be the Same Again" (from Stoned Soul Picnic)||The Magic Garden|
|"Puppet Man"||24||31||-||-||-||19||-||"A Love Like Ours"||Portrait|
|"Save the Country"||27||10||-||24||-||79||-||"Dimension 5ive"|
|"On the Beach (In the Summertime)"||54||12||-||-||-||-||-||"This Is Your Life" (from Portrait)||Non-album track|
|"One Less Bell to Answer"||2||1||4||3||-||-||-||"Feelin' Alright?"||US: Gold||Portrait|
|1971||"Love's Lines, Angles and Rhymes"||19||6||-||28||-||-||-||"The Singer"||Love's Lines, Angles and Rhymes|
|"Light Sings"||44||12||-||-||-||-||-||"Viva! (Viva Tirado)"|
|"Never My Love" (live)||12||1||45||21||-||85||-||"A Love Like Ours" (from Portrait)||Live!!|
|"Together Let's Find Love" (live)||37||8||22||-||-||-||-||"I Just Wanta Be Your Friend"|
|1972||"(Last Night) I Didn't Get to Sleep at All"||8||2||28||5||-||7||-||"The River Witch" (from Living Together, Growing Together)||US: Gold||Individually & Collectively|
|"If I Could Reach You"||10||1||-||13||-||-||-||"Tomorrow Belongs to the Children"|
|1973||"Living Together, Growing Together"||32||5||-||-||-||-||-||"What Do I Need to Be Me"||Living Together, Growing Together|
|"Everything's Been Changed"||70||18||-||-||-||-||-||"There Never Was a Day"|
|"Ashes to Ashes"||52||7||54||-||-||-||-||"The Singer" (from Love's Lines, Angles and Rhymes)|
|"Flashback"||82||30||75||-||-||60||-||"Diggin' for a Livin'"||Non-album tracks|
|1974||"Harlem"||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||"My Song"||Soul & Inspiration|
|1975||"No Love in the Room"||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||"I Don't Know How to Look for Love"|
|"Magic In My Life"||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||"Lean On Me Always"||Earthbound|
|"Walk Your Feet In The Sunshine"||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||"Speaking With My Heart"|
|1976||"Love Hangover"||80||-||39||-||-||-||-||"Will You Be There"||Non-album tracks|
|Year||Album||Billboard 200||R&B||Certification||Record Label|
|1967||Up, Up and Away||8||10||US: Gold||Soul City Records|
|The Magic Garden||105||43|
|1968||Stoned Soul Picnic||21||10|
|1969||The Age of Aquarius||2||2||US: Gold|
|1970||Portrait||20||6||US: Gold||Bell Records|
|1971||Love's Lines, Angles and Rhymes||17||10||US: Gold|
|1972||Individually and Collectively||58||21|
|1973||Living Together, Growing Together||108||25|
|1974||Soul & Inspiration||-||55|
|1978||Star Dancing||-||-||Motown Records|
|High on Sunshine||-||-|
|1995||In the House||-||-||Click Records|
|Year||Album||Billboard 200||R&B||Certification||Record Label|
|1971||Live!!||32||13||US: Gold||Bell Records|
|1995||Respect - Live||-||-||Success Records|
|2005||Live! Plus Rare Studio Recordings!||-||-||Classic World Productions|
|Year||Album||Billboard 200||R&B||Certification||Record Label|
|1967||The Fantastic 5th Dimension||-||-||Liberty Records|
|1969||Let The Sunshine In||-||-|
|1970||Greatest Hits (Soul City)||5||8||US: Gold||Soul City Records|
|Dimension Five||-||-||Bell Records|
|The July 5th Album||63||-||Soul City Records|
|Love Garden||-||-||Liberty Records|
|The 5th Dimension Special||-||-||K-tel Records|
|1971||The Best of Fifth Dimension||-||-||Karussell Records|
|The Fantastic Fifth Dimension Vol. 2||-||-||Liberty Records|
|1972||Greatest Hits on Earth||14||10||US: Gold|
|1976||22 of Their Fabulous Hits||-||-|
|1982||The Very Best of 5th Dimension||-||-||Warwick Records|
|1986||Anthology 1967-1973||-||-||Rhino Records|
|1997||Up-Up and Away: The Definitive Collection||-||-||Arista Records|
|1999||Aquarius / Let The Sunshine In||-||-||Brilliant|
There have been several 5th Dimension compilations issued in recent years. In 2004, Arista issued Ultimate 5th Dimension, a single disc containing 20 hit singles plus a previously unreleased McCoo-led take on "Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye". In 2011, Sony/Legacy reissued the two-CD The Definitive Collection as The Essential 5th Dimension, with a few changes to the repertoire. Legacy issued, in 2014, the group's entry in their "Playlist" series of single disc releases, including the radio edit of "Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In" (which was issued on the 1970 Greatest Hits vinyl album) and a few mono single versions. Finally, in December 2016, Real Gone Music issued the three-disc set The Complete Soul City/Bell Singles 1966-1975.