Van McCoy

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Van McCoy
Van McCoy.jpg
Background information
Birth nameVan Allen Clinton McCoy
Born(1940-01-06)January 6, 1940
Washington, D.C., U.S.
DiedJuly 6, 1979(1979-07-06) (aged 39)
Englewood, New Jersey, U.S.
GenresDisco, R&B, pop
Occupation(s)Singer, songwriter
Years active1952–1979
LabelsColumbia, Avco, H&L

Van Allen Clinton McCoy (January 6, 1940 – July 6, 1979) was an American musician, record producer, arranger, songwriter, singer and orchestra conductor. He is known best for his 1975 internationally successful song "The Hustle". He has approximately 700 song copyrights to his credit, and is also noted for producing songs for such recording artists as Gladys Knight & the Pips, The Stylistics, Aretha Franklin, Brenda & the Tabulations, David Ruffin, Peaches & Herb, Lesley Gore[1] and Stacy Lattisaw.


Early life[edit]

Van McCoy was born in Washington, D.C., the second child of Norman S. McCoy, Sr. and Lillian Ray.[2] He learned to play piano at a young age and sang with the Metropolitan Baptist Church choir as a youngster.[3]

By the age of 12, he had begun writing his own songs, in addition to performing in local amateur shows alongside his older brother, Norman Jr. The two brothers formed a doo-wop combo named the Starlighters with two friends while in Theodore Roosevelt High School. In 1956, they recorded a single entitled, "The Birdland",[2] a novelty dance record. It gained some interest, resulting in a tour with saxophonist Vi Burnside. In 1959, the Starlighters produced three singles for End Records that included "I Cried". Marriage and other commitments eventually caused the group to disband during the mid-1950s. Van also sang with a group called the Marylanders.

During 1961, McCoy met Kendra Spotswood (also known as Sandi Sheldon) who lived near his family. For the next five years, they sang and recorded music together professionally. Their relationship ended when McCoy delayed their wedding plans because of a work contract he had signed with Columbia Records.[2]


In September 1958, McCoy entered Howard University to study psychology but dropped out after two years in order to relocate to Philadelphia, where he formed his own recording company, Rockin' Records, releasing his first single, "Hey Mr. DJ", in 1959.[4] This single gained the attention of Scepter Records owner Florence Greenberg, who hired McCoy as a staff writer and A&R representative for the label.[4] As a writer there, McCoy composed his first success, "Stop the Music", for the popular female vocal group, The Shirelles, in 1962. He was co-owner of Vando Records with Philly D.J. Jocko Henderson. He owned the Share record label and co-owned the Maxx record label in the mid-1960s, supervising such artists as Gladys Knight & The Pips, Chris Bartley and The Ad Libs.

He came into his own after first working for top producers Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller as a writer, and then signing with the major April-Blackwood music publishing concern, connected with Columbia Records. McCoy went on to write a string of hits as the 1960s progressed. He penned "Giving Up" for Gladys Knight & the Pips (later a hit for both The Ad Libs[5] and Donny Hathaway), "The Sweetest Thing This Side of Heaven" for Chris Bartley, "When You're Young and in Love" for Ruby & the Romantics (later a hit for The Marvelettes), "Right on the Tip of My Tongue" for Brenda & the Tabulations,[4] "Baby I'm Yours" for Barbara Lewis,[4] "Getting Mighty Crowded" for Betty Everett, "Abracadabra" for Erma Franklin, "You're Gonna Make Me Love You" for Sandi Sheldon, and "I Get the Sweetest Feeling" for Jackie Wilson. He also put together the hit-making duo of Peaches & Herb, arranging and co-producing their first hit, "Let's Fall in Love", for the Columbia subsidiary Date in 1966.[4] In the same year McCoy recorded a solo LP for Columbia entitled Night Time Is Lonely Time, and a year later started his own short-lived label, Vando, as well as his own production company VMP (Van McCoy Productions).[4]

Van wrote or produced most consistently for The Presidents ("5-10-15-20 (25-30 Years of Love)"), The Choice Four, recording as The Finger Pointers ("Come Down to Earth"), Faith, Hope & Charity ("To Each His Own" and "Life Goes On") and David Ruffin ("Walk Away from Love"). In the early 1970s, McCoy began a long, acclaimed collaboration with songwriter/producer, Charles Kipps, and arranged several hits for the soul group The Stylistics as well as releasing his own solo LP on the Buddah label, Soul Improvisations, in 1972.[4] The album included a minor hit, "Let Me Down Easy", but it was not a success following poor promotion. Following his success with The Hustle, it was re-released in abridged form (two songs less) as From Disco to Love. He formed his own orchestra, Soul City Symphony[6] and, with singers Faith, Hope and Charity, produced several albums and gave many performances.[4]

Television and film[edit]

Van McCoy appeared on the Mike Douglas Show and was a regular guest on The Tonight Show.[7] He wrote and sang the theme song for the 1978 movie Sextette that starred Mae West and Timothy Dalton and made a cameo appearance in it, playing a delegate from Africa. He also contributed some music for A Woman Called Moses.[2] Along with Faith Hope & Charity, Brass Construction and Johnny Dark, he appeared in episode 4.20 of Don Kirshner's Rock Concert.[8]

Mainstream success[edit]

In 1975, McCoy released to low expectations the mostly instrumental LP Disco Baby for the Avco (later H&L) label. The title song, "Disco Baby", was written by George David Weiss, Hugo Peretti and Luigi Creatore, and was also performed by The Stylistics for their 1975 album Thank You Baby. Unexpectedly, a single called "The Hustle" from the album, written about the dance of the same name and recorded last for the album, went to the top of both the Billboard pop and R&B charts (also No. 3 in the UK)[9] and won a Grammy Award. The album was also nominated for a Grammy. McCoy, then regarded as a disco hitmaker, never repeated the success of the song, although the singles "Party", "That's the Joint" and "Change with the Times" got significant airplay.[10] The latter reached No. 6 in the Billboard R&B chart and was a Top 40 hit in the UK.[9] There were no further major sellers in the US, despite a series of follow-up albums, From Disco to Love (the abridged 1975 reissue of Soul Improvisations), The Disco Kid (1975), The Real McCoy (1976), Rhythms of the World (1976), My Favorite Fantasy (1978), Lonely Dancer (1979) and Sweet Rhythm (1979).[4] However, he scored the UK top 5 again during 1977 with the instrumental success "The Shuffle".[9] which became the theme tune for BBC Radio 4's Sport on Four.

McCoy also had success with David Ruffin's comeback album, Who I Am, featuring "Walk Away from Love", (US number 9, US number 1 R&B) in the US and a UK Top 5 success. He went on to produce the next two albums for Ruffin, which spawned further successes. McCoy produced Gladys Knight & the Pips' Still Together LP, and for Melba Moore ("This Is It" and "Lean on Me"). He discovered Faith, Hope And Charity, whose major success in 1975, "To Each His Own", was another R&B chart-topper.[4] In 1975, he also arranged two of his compositions "My Heart's Too Big For My Head" and "You've Got to Tell Her" for the Asha Puthli album She Loves to Hear the Music.


McCoy died from a heart attack in Englewood, New Jersey, on July 6, 1979, at the age of 39.[11] He is buried in the McCoy family plot at Lincoln Cemetery, Suitland, Maryland, a suburb of Washington, D.C.


Studio albums[edit]

Year Album Peak chart positions Certifications Record label

1966 Night Time Is Lonely Time Columbia
1972 Soul Improvisations Buddah
1974 Love Is The Answer [A] Avco
1975 Disco Baby [A] 12 1 33 11 16 32
From Disco to Love 181 41 75 Buddah
The Disco Kid 82 18 97 20 Avco
1976 The Real McCoy 106 22 H&L
Rhythms of the World 44
1977 Van McCoy and His Magnificent Movie Machine
1978 My Favorite Fantasy MCA
1979 Lonely Dancer
"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.
  • A Albums credited to Van McCoy & the Soul City Symphony

Compilation albums[edit]

Year Album Peak Record label
1976 The Hustle and Best of Van McCoy 193 H&L
1979 Sweet Rhythm
1987 The Best of Van McCoy
2016 The Best of Van McCoy Unidisc Music
"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.


Year Title Peak chart positions Certifications Album
US Dan
1961 "I Wantcha Back" N/A
"Never Trust a Friend"
"Mr. D.J." 104
"Girls Are Sentimental"
1962 "Follow Your Heart"
1963 "It Ain't No Big Thing"
"Very Few Heartaches (Very Few Tears)" (with Kendra Spotswood) [B]
1964 "Two of a Kind" (with Kendra Spotswood) [B]
1965 "Something Special" (with Kendra Spotswood) [B]
"Butterfly" 10
1966 "Starlight, Starbright"
"Take Me for What I Am" (with Kendra Spotswood) [B]
"The House That Love Built" Night Time Is Lonely Time
"Pledging My Love" N/A
1968 "Sweet And Easy" [C]
1969 "The Generation Gap" [C]
"I Started a Joke"
1970 "Where There's a Heartache (There Must Be a Heart)"
1972 "I'm in Love with You Baby" Soul Improvisations
"Let Me Down Easy"
1973 "I'm In Your Corner" (with Sharon Ridley) N/A
1974 "Love Is the Answer" [D] 77 22 88 Love Is The Answer
"African Symphony" [D] 13
1975 "Boogie Down" [D] 67
"The Hustle" [D] 1 1 2 3 9 1 3 5 4 3 Disco Baby
"Change with the Times" 46 6 15 52 31 36 The Disco Kid
1976 "Night Walk" 96 51 The Real McCoy
"Party" 69 20 14
"Soul Cha Cha" [E] 14 13 7 34 Rhythms of the World
"The Shuffle" 105 79 6 4
1978 "My Favorite Fantasy" 76 My Favorite Fantasy
"Two Points"
1979 "Lonely Dancer" Lonely Dancer
"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.
  • B Singles credited to Jack & Jill
  • C Singles credited to the Van McCoy Strings
  • D Singles credited to Van McCoy & the Soul City Symphony
  • E "Soul Cha Cha" charted with the tracks "Rhythms of the World" and "That's the Joint" on the Disco Action chart


  1. ^ "Lesley Gore – Sunshine, Lollipops And Rainbows". Retrieved August 6, 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d "The Story of Van McCoy". Van McCoy Music, Inc. Retrieved June 4, 2017.
  3. ^ Ankeny, Jason. "Van McCoy Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved June 5, 2017.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Colin Larkin, ed. (1993). The Guinness Who's Who of Soul Music (first ed.). Guinness Publishing. p. 173. ISBN 0-85112-733-9.
  5. ^ "Ad Libs Songs". AllMusic. Retrieved June 5, 2017.
  6. ^ "Van McCoy Profile". Everything2. Retrieved June 4, 2017.
  7. ^ "Van McCoy, 39, Composer of 'The Hustle,' Dies". The Washington Post. July 7, 1979.
  8. ^ Rock Concert (Episode #4.20) at IMDb
  9. ^ a b c Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 338. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  10. ^ Eyries, Patrice; Callahan, Mike; Edwards, Dave. "Van McCoy Avco Recordings". Avco Embassy Discography. Retrieved June 4, 2017.
  11. ^ "Van McCoy, Composed 'The Hustle,' Hit in '75". The New York Times. July 7, 1979. p. 24.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g "US Charts > Van McCoy". Billboard. Retrieved April 25, 2020.
  13. ^ a b David Kent (1993). Australian Charts Book 1970—1992. Australian Chart Book Pty Ltd, Turramurra, N.S.W. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  14. ^ a b "CAN Charts > Van McCoy". RPM. Retrieved April 25, 2020.
  15. ^ a b "GER Charts > Van McCoy". GfK Entertainment charts. Retrieved April 25, 2020.
  16. ^ a b "NL Charts > Van McCoy". MegaCharts. Retrieved April 25, 2020.
  17. ^ a b "UK Charts > Van McCoy". Official Charts Company. Retrieved April 25, 2020.
  18. ^ a b "Canadian certifications – Van McCoy". Music Canada. Retrieved January 1, 2022.
  19. ^ "IRE Charts Search > Van McCoy". Irish Recorded Music Association. Retrieved April 25, 2020.
  20. ^ "American certifications – Van Mc Coy". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved January 1, 2022.
  21. ^ a b "British certifications – Van McCoy". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved January 1, 2022. Type Van McCoy in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.

External links[edit]