FOREVER 5th DIMENSION Spotlights “The Marilyn Solos,” Songwriter Tributes & the Fans’ Wishlist
by Robert-Allan Arno
September 30, it’s that memorable date when we get to celebrate not only the exquisite songstress but “The Marilyn McCoo Solos”–complete this year with special songwriter quotes and an all-new super-fan “wishlist.” Fan Susan Aglio observes, “No one ever performed ‘Quiet Please, There’s a Lady on Stage’ like Marilyn.” Well then, let’s give “the ovation” back to la McCoo herself, one who has enraptured us so elegantly with a miracle’s worth of timeless recorded and on-stage jewels. Producer Bones Howe told FOREVER 5th DIMENSION, “Marilyn does this thing that is all her own, its very feminine in nature. She should be singing ‘til the end of time, even with a simple piano!” In his memoir “From Hobo Flats to The 5th Dimension,” fellow founding member of that iconic quintet where it all started, LaMonte McLemore states, “Who does not like if not revere Marilyn? While her recorded vocal solos are the definition of artistry, her in-person song stylings today are impossibly better than ever.” Indeed, touring to the best reviews of her career with husband, Billy Davis, Jr., the queen of smooth and the master of soul regale the stages of Vegas, the “Soul Train” cruise, perform in cabaret and in front of symphony orchestras, with total panache.
Greats like Neil Sedaka (“Puppet Man,” “Workin’ on a Groovy Thing,”) have heralded Marilyn as “the singer’s singer.” Jimmy Webb (“Up-Up and Away”) shared with me, “One of the most beautiful…and sincere women ever…I knew she’d be a star back then. Today, she never ceases to surpasses herself.” Richard Addrisi (“Never My Love”) confessed to FOREVER 5th, “If I could catch a voice in mid-air, it would be Marilyn’s!” Dorothea Joyce, author of “Love’s Lines, Angles and Rhymes”–Marilyn’s personal fave along with countless fans’–enthused, “She’s in a class with Lena Horne and Barbra Streisand. How I’d love her to update ‘Love’s Lines’ as a dance record…Marilyn can do it all!” Randy McNeil (“If I Could Reach You”) just offered to us this homage to diva McCoo, composed as sensitively as his classic ballad:
Marilyn made me feel like the most blessed songwriter on earth with her unmatchable vocal on “If I Could Reach You,” and I still feel the same way every time I hear it. God’s gift to her has been her gift to each of us… Most of you know Marilyn’s voice the second you hear it, but to me it is mellow, even comforting and yet, it possesses an electrifying energy that can shake the rafters. Listening to her not only sing, but live each and every line I once wrote with pen in hand during a private moment of inspiration is an honor; I am forever grateful.
And wait, the multi-Tony award winning Audra MacDonald named Marilyn as an early influence, in a TV interview: “Marilyn McCoo has a beautiful voice!” the sophisticated Broadway star beamed in wonder, clearly still enamored with the 7-time Grammy-winning legend. Of course the fans are smitten too and our special 2015 survey of longtime members of the “McCoo Crew” certainly displays diverse “trains of thought” with some “Marilyn tunes” to be remembered, some to be requested. Miguel de Leon casts his vote for the pensive recording “Everything’s Been Changed,” composed by Paul Anka. Dave Maze recalls Marilyn’s live version of “Out Here on my Own,” performed back-in-the-day, as co-host of “The Miss America Pageant;” Robyn Pippins sites all the star’s solos of the ‘80’s era, breathtakingly delivered as the host of “Solid Gold.” While “One Less Bell to Answer” by Bacharach/David is deemed Marilyn’s authentic signature by fans like Renee Armstead and music history itself, fans also have been requesting potential new recordings, and sometimes a “live” re-visiting of turntable classics. Dale Kocik mentions the delightful “Open Your Window.” He notes, “I discovered that Ella Fitzgerald also sang this. It makes sense that two of the greatest female vocalists covered the same song.” Marilyn commented to FOREVER 5th DIMENSION that she may consider unearthing this album treasure on stage, in the future! And about her torch inclinations, Marilyn laughs in her mellifluous way, “Even as a young girl, I loved a sad song. I’d be singing about ‘the man that got away’ to the refrigerator light!”
Susie Paige and DeniseRose Torres astutely suggest American Standards. They’d like Marilyn to record “My Romance (Rogers and Hart) and “You’ll Never Know” (Warren/Gordon), respectively. Alain Baptiste suggests the mighty “Send in the Clowns” done the “McCoo way.” Brian Medoro reminds, “Billy Vera’s ‘At this Moment’ was originally intended for Marilyn. She stopped shows with it in concert…I still feel the song is hers and I’d love her to finally record it!” Andy Gard has this illuminated comment: “For the humble, gracious owner of the most evocative voice in pop music, I have two suggestions. For standards I’d like to hear Marilyn cover ‘Lazy Afternoon’…it’s got a similar lyric feel to ‘Open Your Window,’ an invitation to a state of mind. The other one would highlight the plaintive quality in Marilyn’s voice and is called ‘I Can Dream, Can’t I?'”
Loretta Sorensen, a dedicated McCoo-follower, sums fan sentiment up best, “I feel so fortunate to have heard Marilyn’s music most of my life!” Douglas Charles chooses a sweep of discography, punctuating Loretta’s point: “’Never Gonna Be the Same’ from the very first ‘Up-Up and Away’ album by The 5th Dimension bookend-ed by ‘When Did I Lose Your Love’ from the original group’s final “Earthbound” album are two Marilyn solos that have crossed my mind, recently.”
And in my review of Marilyn & Billy’s latest 2 volume LIVE CD , I highlighted this newly “documented” Marilyn showstopper:
McCoo does something uncanny here. She’s found a tune from a recent Clint Eastwood movie that’s “pure Marilyn”–it seamlessly fits as an extension of her legacy solos that are her fans’ cherished gems. There’s a soupcon of “Never My Love,” “If I Could Reach You,” “Open Your Window,” and more, in her spectacularly delicate yet empowered treatment of the jazzy ballad, “Why Should I Care.” Yes, McCoo should sing every theme song of every movie out there!
Marilyn did record another “movie theme” for the sentimental flick fave, 1979’s “Chapter Two.” “I’m on Your Side” (Marvin Hamlisch and Carole Bayer Sager) never got formally released and fans have literally pined for it, for decades. However, we did a special FOREVER 5th DIMENSION YouTube vid of it, so take a sweet break, go on over and hear Marilyn’s “less is more” approach, which was her goal. She told me, “In this case, the story drove the song.” And read the fervent listener commentary. It all spells magnificence : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wiv6zYgyS-8
Did you know that lilting fare like the chart-topping gold of “Wedding Bell Blues” (Laura Nyro), and “Last Night I Didn’t Get to Sleep” (Tony Macaulay) were also top jukebox songs of all time?…a nostalgic factoid as we “Flashback” (Alan O’Day). As a perennial favorite, Marilyn’s soaring interpretation of “O Holy Night” from her Christmas CD, is one fans look forward to her gracing on 2015’s upcoming “Colors of Christmas” tour.
In a FOREVER 5th DIMENSION exclusive interview for their 46th Wedding Anniversary this past July, I asked Marilyn and Billy about the potential of conducting a Master Class one day, since so many singers have credited their and The 5th Dimension’s influence: