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The 5th Dimension Biography

Originally known as the Versatiles and later as the Vocals, Marilyn McCoo (30 September 1943, Jersey City, New Jersey, USA), Florence LaRue (b. 4 February 1944, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA), Billy Davis Jnr. (b. 26 June 1940, St. Louis, Missouri, USA), Lamont McLemore (b. 17 September 1940, St. Louis, Missouri, USA) and Ron Townson (b. 20 January 1933, St. Louis, Missouri, USA, d. 3 August 2001, Las Vegas, USA) were a soul-influenced harmony group, based in Los Angeles, and signed to Johnny Rivers’ fledgling Soul City label. They sprang to fame in 1967 as an outlet for the then unknown talents of songwriter Jimmy Webb. Ebullient singles on the pop charts, including ‘Go Where You Wanna’, ‘Up, Up And Away’ and ‘Carpet Man’, established their fresh voices, which wrapped themselves around producer Bones Howe’s dizzy arrangements.

Having completed two albums containing a number of Webb originals, the group then took to another composer, Laura Nyro, whose beautiful soul-styled songs ‘Stoned Soul Picnic’, ‘Sweet Blindness’ (both 1968), ‘Wedding Bell Blues’ (1969) and ‘Save The Country’ (1970) continued the Fifth Dimension’s success and introduced the group to the R&B charts. These popular recordings were punctuated by ‘Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In’, a medley of songs from the rock musical Hair, which topped the US chart in 1969 and reached number 11 in Britain that same year. In 1971 the group reached number 2 in the USA with the haunting ‘One Less Bell To Answer’. From then on, however, the MOR elements within their style began to take precedence and the quintet’s releases grew increasingly bland. In 1976 McCoo and Davis (who were now married) left for a successful career both as a duo and as solo artists. They had a US number 1 hit together in 1976 with ‘You Don’t Have To Be A Star’, which was followed up in 1977 by their last Top 20 hit, ‘Your Love’. McCoo went on to host the US television show Solid Gold for much of the early 80s. Townson, McLemore and LaRue carried on with new members, recording two albums for Motown Records before establishing themselves on the nightclub circuit. The original quintet briefly reunited in the early 90s for a series of concerts, touring as the Original 5th Dimension. Townson retired from the group in 1997 due to ill health, and passed away four years later.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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