The 5th Dimension

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This article is about the band. For other uses, see Fifth Dimension (disambiguation).
The 5th Dimension
5th Dimension 1969.jpg
The 5th Dimension in 1969.
Back row: Townson and McLemore.
Front row: LaRue, Davis, and McCoo.
Background information
Origin Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Genres R&B, pop, soul, sunshine pop, psychedelic soul
Years active 1966–present
(until 1975 in original incarnation)
Labels Soul City, Imperial, Bell Records, Arista, ABC Records, Motown
Past members Marilyn McCoo
Billy Davis, Jr.
Florence LaRue
Lamonte McLemore
Ron Townson
See: Membership section for detailed listing

The 5th Dimension is an American popular music vocal group, whose repertoire also includes pop, R&B, soul, and jazz.

Originally known as The Hi-Fi's,[1] the group changed its name to The 5th Dimension in late 1966 and was best-known during the late 1960s and early 1970s for popularizing the hits "Up, Up and Away", "Stoned Soul Picnic", "Medley: Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In (The Flesh Failures)", "Wedding Bell Blues", "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 Ron Townson. They have recorded for several different 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 would later record 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 covered music by well known songwriters such as the song "One Less Bell to Answer", written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David and the songs and music of Jimmy Webb, who penned their hit "Up, Up and Away", including an entire recording of Webb songs called The Magic Garden.

Career[edit]

Formation[edit]

In the early 1960s, Lamonte McLemore and Marilyn McCoo, a former beauty pageant contestant, got together with two other friends from Los Angeles, Harry Elston and Floyd Butler, to form a group called the Hi-Fis. 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 Butler and Elston to go their own way, eventually leading to their organizing the Friends of Distinction.

McLemore sought to form another group and started looking for members to join him and McCoo. One was Florence LaRue, who had received training as a youngster in singing, dancing, and violin; and who also won the talent portion at Miss Bronze California (as McCoo had the year prior). About the same time LaRue was approached to join the group, McLemore recruited an old friend of his, Ron Townson, who at age six had started singing in choirs and gospel groups in his hometown of St. Louis. 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 Gospel Singers for a while, and also 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.

McLemore's cousin, 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 various musical groups. When he was asked to join his cousin's new group, he immediately said yes.

Major hits[edit]

The group performing in 1970.

The members began rehearsing as the Versatiles in early 1966 and auditioned for Marc Gordon, who headed Motown's Los Angeles office. Although the group's demo tape was rejected by Motown, 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 flop.

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. Undaunted, 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 both R&B and pop stations and peaked at #16 on the Hot 100, opening the fivesome's chart career.

The budding young songwriter Jimmy Webb supplied the group with their breakthrough hit, "Up, Up and Away", a mid-1967 #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. #13). The group received a gold record for their album Stoned Soul Picnic.

That album also included "California Soul", which peaked at #25 in February 1969. Weeks later the group's success broke wide open, with "Medley: Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In (The Flesh Failures)" from the musical Hair topping the Hot 100 in April and May, and another Nyro song, "Wedding Bell Blues", doing the same in November. Their cover of Neil Sedaka's "Workin' On A Groovy Thing" went to #20 in-between. Those four singles kept the group on the Hot 100 all but four weeks in 1969.

Later top 20 hits included 1970's "One Less Bell to Answer" (U.S. #2), 1971's "Love's Lines, Angles and Rhymes" (U.S. #19) and "Never My Love" (U.S. #12), 1972's "(Last Night) I Didn't Get to Sleep at All" (U.S. #8) and "If I Could Reach You" (U.S. #10). The group also had seven other top 40 hits, the last being 1973's "Living Together, Growing Together" (U.S. #32) from the film Lost Horizon.

TV appearances[edit]

The 5th Dimension performed "Sweet Blindness" on Frank Sinatra's 1968 TV special "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 used as a plot device in which the song's closing notes was used to set off a bomb in an assassination attempt.

The 5th Dimension 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: 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". The group 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 would be the group's last on Sullivan.

"The 5th Dimension Traveling Sunshine Show", a television special, aired on August 18, 1971.

Regrouping[edit]

In 1975, McCoo and Davis, who had married on 26 July 1969, left the group to do both 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)". McCoo also served a 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.

Reunion and departure[edit]

The original quintet reunited in 1990 and 1991 for a tour. Townson briefly left the group to try a solo career, but soon returned, as the group eventually 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 diabetes-related kidney failure. Battle departed in 2002, to be replaced by Van Jewell. McLemore retired from the group in March 2006.

Today[edit]

McCoo and Davis continue to tour separately as their own act. As of April 2009, the group is actively touring as "The 5th Dimension featuring Florence LaRue", led by LaRue with Willie Williams, Leonard Tucker, Patrice Morris, and Floyd Smith.[2]

In October 2011 McCoo and Davis featured on the Cliff Richard album Soulicious, also appearing live on stage in the tour of the same name, reprising several of their hits as well as dueting with Richard.

Honors[edit]

The group was inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2002.[3] The group has a star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame, inducted on March 18, 2010.[4]

Membership[edit]

McCoo and Davis left the group in November 1975. Since then, other members have included:

  • Eloise Laws (McCoo replacement) 1975
  • Danny Beard (Davis replacement) 1975–1978
  • Marjorie Barnes (McCoo replacement) 1976–1977
  • Terri Bryant (McCoo replacement) 1978–1979
  • Mic Bell (Townson replacement) 1978–1979
  • Lou Courtney (Davis replacement) 1978–1979
  • Pat Bass (McCoo replacement) 1979
  • Tanya Boyd (McCoo replacement) 1979
  • Joyce Wright Pierce (McCoo replacement) 1979–1986 and 1987
  • Michael Procter (Davis replacement) 1979–1988
  • Ron Townson 1979-1997
  • Estrelita (McCoo replacement) 1986
  • Phyllis Battle (McCoo replacement) 1988–2001
  • Eugene Barry-Hill (Davis replacement) 1989–1992
  • Greg Walker (Davis replacement) 1993–2006
  • Willie Williams (Townson replacement) 1998–present
  • Van Jewell (McCoo replacement) 2002, 2005
  • Julie Delgado (McCoo replacement) 2002–2005
  • Jamila Ajibade (McCoo replacement) 2005–2006 and 2007–2008
  • Leonard Tucker (Davis replacement) 2006–present
  • Valerie Davis (McCoo replacement) 2006–2007
  • Jennifer Leigh Warren (McCoo replacement) 2007
  • Gwyn Foxx (McCoo replacement) December 2007
  • Michael Mishaw (McLemore replacement) 2006–2008
  • Patrice Morris (McCoo replacement) 2008–present
  • Floyd Smith (McLemore replacement) 2009–present
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
1976-76 Marjorie Barnes
1978 Terri Bryant
1978-79 Lou Courtney Mic Bell
1979 Pat Bass/
Tanya Boyd/
Joyce Wright Pierce
Michael Proctor
1980-86 Joyce Wright Pierce Ron Townson
1986 Estrelita
1987 Joyce Wright Pierce
1988 Phyllis Battle
1989-92 Eugene Barry Hill
1993-98 Greg Walker
1998–2002 Willie Williams
2002 Van Jewell
2002-05 Julie Delgado
2005 Van Jewell
2005-06 Jamila Ajibade
2006-07 Valerie Davis Leonard Tucker Michael Mishaw
2007 Jennifer Lee Warren/
Gwyn Foxx
2008 Patrice Morris
2009–present Floyd Smith

Discography[edit]

Singles[edit]

US charts are from Billboard. Canadian charts are taken from the weekly surveys of CHUM in Toronto.

Year Song US US AC US R&B CAN UK[6] AUS B-side 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 "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 5 - - "The Sailboat Song" Stoned Soul Picnic
"Sweet Blindness" 13 - 45 15 - 19 "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 "Don'tcha Hear Me Callin' to Ya?" 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 "Lovin' Stew" (from Stoned Soul Picnic)
"Blowing Away" 21 7 - 24 - 55 "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?" 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) 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" 105 11 - - - - "I Don't Know How to Look for Love"
1976 "Love Hangover" 80 - 39 - - - "Will You Be There" Non-album tracks
1983 "Surrender[disambiguation needed]" - - - - - - "Fantasy"

Albums[edit]

Year Album Billboard 200 R&B Record Label
1967 Up, Up and Away 8 10 Soul City Records
The Magic Garden 105 43
1968 Stoned Soul Picnic 21 10
1969 The Age of Aquarius 2 2
1970 Portrait 20 6 Bell Records
1971 Live!! 32 13
Love's Lines, Angles and Rhymes 17 10
1972 Individually & Collectively 58 21
1973 Living Together, Growing Together 108 25
1974 Soul & Inspiration 55
1975 Earthbound 136 30 ABC Records
1978 High on Sunshine Motown Records
Star Dancing
1995 In the House Click Records
Respect - Live Success Records
2005 Live! Plus Other Rare Studio Recordings Classic World Productions

Compilation Albums[edit]

Year Album Billboard 200 R&B Record Label
1967 The Fantastic 5th Dimension Liberty Records
1969 Let The Sunshine In
1970 Greatest Hits 5 8 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
Reflections 112 Bell Records
1972 Greatest Hits on Earth 14 10
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 Definite Collection Arista Records

DVD[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Roxon, Lillian (1972). Lillian Roxon's Rock Encyclopedia (2nd ed.). New York: Grosset and Dunlop, Universal Library Edition. pp. 181–182. ISBN 0-448-00255-8. 
  2. ^ "Florence LaRue & The 5th Dimension A Brief Biography". Retrieved 2009-04-25. 
  3. ^ "The 5th Dimension - Inductees - The Vocal Group Hall of Fame Foundation". Vocal Group Hall of Fame Foundation. Retrieved 2009-03-31. 
  4. ^ "St. Louis Walk of Fame - The 5th Dimension". St. Louis Walk of Fame. Retrieved 20 March 2010. 
  5. ^ "LaMonte McLemore". IMDb.com. Retrieved 2012-11-10. 
  6. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 199. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 
  7. ^ VIEW DVD Listing

Bibliography[edit]

  • The Encyclopedia of Pop, Rock & Soul (Revised edition) - Irwin Stambler ©1989 St. Martin's Press, New York
  • All Music Guide to Soul (article by Steve Huey) ©2003 Backbeat Books San Francisco

External links[edit]