June 26, 2017–The birthday of Billy Davis, Jr., our Gentleman of Soul has been special cause for celebration over the 9 years we’ve been doing FOREVER 5th DIMENSION, honoring the man whose motto is “What comes from the heart, goes to the heart.” And that’s been proven in each and every one of his recorded and onstage renderings that have moved us over the years, from ballads to Blues, sweet-Soul treatises to full-throttle romps. Literally as I am writing this, our friends at REWOUND radio are honoring my own “Billy Birthday Request” in playing that tune of nostalgic loss yet eternal forgiveness, “Ashes to Ashes”…a personal favorite 5th Dimension single of Billy’s. And last month, while his superstar wife of soon-to-be 48 years, Marilyn McCoo and the equally stellar Mr. Davis were being feted by the Pacific Pioneer Broadcasters, it was fellow Original 5th Dimension mate, Florence LaRue who declared emotionally from the dais that “No one sounds like Billy, his voice still brings a tear to my eye.” Also in May, at the Carnegie Hall tribute to Jimmy Webb, it was Billy who brought down the house, garnering a standing O for his interpretation of “The Worst that Could Happen”…a gem from “The Magic Garden.” And there are countless treasures from Billy that flood the “music of our minds” with his inimitable tone, textured timbre and depth of interpretive skills. “That’s not me, it’s God working through me” is Billy’s sincerely humble response to the many accolades he’s received from the likes of Webb himself, Maurice White (Earth, Wind & Fire), Eddie Levert (The O’Jays), and fellow Original 5th founder, LaMonte McLemore. And Marilyn has endearingly talked to us about encouraging her hubby to record “When a Man Loves a Woman” for their “Many Faces of Love” project, and how he helped her with phrasing on her own iconic “One Less Bell to Answer.” Now here’s a sampling of “song-choice hurrahs” from select special fans who were invited to partake in this year’s “survey” as follows, for Billy’s Birthday Celebration ’17—
By special request: Choose your Top 5 Billy solos (in no particular order, unless you wish to do so) for a mythical yet potential Billy’s Greatest Hits CD, from his most memorable solo recordings with The Original 5th Dimension, or on the MarBill duet albums including the recent “The Many Faces of Love” or Live CD projects. Or choose from his inspirational album, “The Love of God” (formerly “Let Me Have a Dream”)…or an obscure single like the “soulicious” Three Steps From True Love, perhaps!
The Fans’ Responses…
Susie Paige: All are great of course but my favorites include: “Summer’s Daughter,” “Somebody Warm Like Me,” “A Change is Gonna Come,” “The Worst That Could Happen,” and “There Never Was a Day.”
Susan Aglio: Billy has SO many amazing songs but if I had to pick, my favorites are “The Singer,” which still can make me cry when I listen to it and “Speaking With My Heart,” which “spoke” to me personally.
Robyn Pippins: “When A Man Loves A Woman,” “Stay With Me,” “Stepping Out/Stepping In,” “The Singer,” “When Something is Wrong with My Baby.” Thanks Robert, I could go on and on!!
Renee Armstead: For me it’s of course “A Change is Gonna Come” and “Broken Wing Bird.”
Phyl Craig-Noto: THE SINGER!!!!!
Brian Medoro: “Don’t Stop For Nothin’,” “ I Just Want To Be Your Friend,” “Requiem: 820 Latham,” “Half Moon,” “I’ve Got A Feeling.” I could list tons more, but that’s my opening set list!!
Cynthia Malachi White: My favorites are:
“When a Man Loves a Woman,” “I’m Blessed,” “Try a Little Tenderness,” “Summer’s Daughter,“ “A Change Is Gonna Come.”
Deniserose Torres: “Let It Be Me,” “Leave a Little Room,” “When Something is Wrong with My Baby,” “A Change is Gonna Come”… the 5th choice is always the hardest ‘cause I don’t want to leave anything off … but I will add some Blues and go with “Let the Good Times Roll!”
John Estes: My top 5 in order are:
“Broken Wing Bird,” “The Singer,“ “Requiem: 820 Latham,” “Summer’s Daughter,” “It’ll Never Be the Same Again” (I also want to give Honorable Mention to “Rusty Hands of Time”…what a great song!)
Renee Armstead: Oh yes! “Rusty Hands of Time!” I LOVE that song. Add this to my list too, Robert. I remember after a MarBill concert I went to about four years ago, I mentioned this rare song to Billy and he laughed and said, “Listen to you! ‘Rusty Hands of Time?’ That’s an old song!”
Douglas C. Charles: Billy recorded so many great songs. His range and mastering of a song are incredible. It would be impossible for me to list in an exact order. That being said, five of my favorites are…” Leave A Little Room,” “Requiem: 820 Latham ,” “A Change Is Gonna Come” (best version I have ever heard, by the way), “It’ll Never Be The Same Again,” “I’ve Got A Feeling.” HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU BILLY!!!
Loretta Sorensen: Here ya go: “Let It Be Me,” “Requiem: 820 Latham,” “The Worst That Could Happen,” “Misty Roses,” and “A Change is Gonna Come.” Happiest of Birthdays, Dear Billy!
Andy Gard: Here are mine in basically chronological order, without rhyme or reason or extraneous personal opinion: “Misty Roses,” “Let It Be Me,” “Feelin’ Alright?,” “Leave A Little Room,” and “ I’ve Got A Feeling.” Happy Birthday to one of the greatest soul singers of our generation! (OK, so maybe a little personal opinion.)
Alain Baptiste: Mariette and I have been thinking about this…we immediately said A CHANGE IS GONNA COME and LEAVE A LITTLE ROOM. Mariette says MISTY ROSES too, I like FEELIN’ ALRIGHT. Our 5th choice is ALL the rest !! Happy Birthday and God bless a legend, BILLY DAVIS JR!! –Mariette & Alain
“Surprise, Fans! Now this is a rare one, huh?!”
I want to thank the fans for their select input which is a microcosm of what I’m sure so many feel about Billy’s artistry, the world over! Certainly, I too can speak of my favorite Billy tunes–each is timeless, taking on new meaning with each year–but talking of “years,” I’d like to share a snippet of my personal birthday note to Billy:
Please know how grateful I am to know you over the years. With each new encounter, I am so touched by your thoughtful authenticity. You always seem to express things in a deep pastoral manner that serves as soothing “food for thought”…even when we’re sharing a laugh like at the recent Carnegie Hall after-party, it is caring and substantive. Man-to-man, I appreciate your continuing to be not only a great entertainer, but an overall role model.
Lastly, Marilyn & Billy brought the fans their own brand of fun this year with their 6-day “Countdown to Billy’s Birthday” on Twitter @mccoodavis. I’m gonna end this tribute with our duo, sharing the links to these amazing old n’ new classics so you can have your own Billy listening party!
Our Warm Happy Birthday Wishes & Blessings to a Great Man,
Robert & the special Fans
Countdown to Billy’s Birthday as seen on Twitter @mccoodavis…
Reflecting on memorable solos like this song of pure hope, LEAVE A LITTLE ROOM https://t.co/mE5scFB6u9
The smooth MISTY ROSES from our 1st Orig 5th Dimension album spells romance. https://t.co/42xEJwOtQz
The lyrical poetry of @realjimmywebb makes REQUIEM: 820 LATHAM a moving favorite. https://t.co/J8bFasbr01
A CHANGE IS GONNA COME makes a statement that’s an important part of our show to this day. https://t.co/G5himCfsee
From the EARTHBOUND album, “get down” with the Rock n’ Soul of I’VE GOT A FEELING! https://t.co/AsFe1I6GrA
From THE MANY FACES OF LOVE, WHEN A MAN LOVES A WOMAN is a special “Marilyn Request!” https://t.co/FTmT6JkmeN
7-time Grammy winning Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis, Jr. appear in their Broadway-like review “Up-Up & Away–a musical fable” and in-concert…for appearance dates, “like” their official Facebook page or visit http://www.mccoodavis.com
Special Thanks to Steve Rosenblum, Sterling/Winters
(Forever 5th Dimension by Robert-Allan Arno, copyright 2008-2017 is a production of The Soul of The Voice, Ltd, intellectual property, all rights reserved)