Tag Archives: Jimmy Webb

Summer Highlight: Florence LaRue joins Jimmy Webb!

Flor and JimmySummer ’17 Highlight! In late July, the vibrant Florence LaRue joined Jimmy Webb onstage at his acoustic concert, Levitt Pavilion Pasadena. The two celebrated the 50th anniversary of UP-UP AND AWAY, performing a delightfully rousing version of the multi-Grammy award winner penned by Webb, a signature hit for The 5th Dimension. Ms. LaRue also celebrates 5 decades with the quintet, today she leads the current 5th Dimension to sold-out shows, globally.  Special note: Two fan-favorite “Florence solos”: THIS IS YOUR LIFE and MAGIC IN MY LIFE from the “Portrait” and “Earthbound” albums, respectively were written (and the latter produced) by Webb.  –Robert-Allan Arno

RARE ALTERN 5th

Visit Florence LaRue & The 5th Dimension for concert schedule & more at: http://florencelarure.com or  http://5thdimensionlive.com

 

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Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis, Jr. Soar at Jimmy Webb Celebration — Carnegie Hall, May 3, 2017

A Forever 5th Dimension Exclusive by Robert-Allan Arno

CARNEGIE COLLAGE


It seems like New York City, itself and everyone who’s excitedly peeking in from all over today’s social media is making “the world a nicer place” while still abuzz about this past Wednesday’s Jimmy Webb Celebration!JimmyWebbHeader_3 The star-studded extravaganza at the “venue of venues,” Carnegie Hall, heralded the tunesmith extraordinaire, composer of such classics as “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” “MacArthur Park” and of course, the multi-Grammy winning “Up-Up and Away.”  At Forever 5th Dimension, we bring you exclusive coverage with that one-on-one, “MarBill touch”…
Our very own Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis, Jr. immediately took the show to exemplary heights with their quintessential rendering of The Original 5th Dimension’s signature about that “beautiful balloon,” one that launched Jimmy’s career circa ’67, too. Defying the anthem’s 50th anniversary, the original lead singers of The 5th Dimension wowed the crowd exhibiting voices that were as pristine as ever while looking eternally glamorous and youthful. Marilyn’s stratospheric note at the end of “Up-Up and Away” would be metaphoric for the night’s entire uplifting affair.CARNEGIE UP UP

See the dynamic duo’s Carnegie Hall performance of “Up-Up and Away” here:  https://youtu.be/LH5Yhp2mYUM

Then Billy stepped forward to deliver a languidly poignant version of “Magic Garden” mainstay “The Worst That Could Happen” (you know, the original which inspired the Johnny Maestro/Brooklyn Bridge hit). magic gardenYou want some “Forever 5th” tid-bits?  Let’s shoot to the after-party at the trendy City Winery where Jimmy sighed about every original 5th-D member’s all-time fave album as we chatted: “Ah, ‘The Magic Garden,’ there was nothing like it…it was our very own ‘Sgt. Pepper.'” Billy confided to me about his Carnegie Hall rendition of TWTCH which received a well-deserved standing O, “I wanted to do the song for the fans and especially for Jimmy a bit more slowed down, to draw attention to his words…as it should be.”  Marilyn shared while we exchanged vocal preservation tips, “Billy avoided sweets the week before, so his delivery would be extra-crystal clear.”  Then we all bit into the celebratory luscious brownie triangles at the post-show soiree!

Savor Billy’s Carnegie Hall performance of “The Worst That Could Happen” here:  https://youtu.be/unsy1CxtWFQ

BIG GROUPBack to the stage, performances by other legends including Judy Collins, Art Garfunkel, BJ Thomas, Johnny Rivers, Dwight Yoakam, Catherine Zeta-Jones, surprise guest Michael Feinstein, Amy Grant and Graham Nash (both in duet with Jimmy), Broadway’s Liz Callaway, stunning newcomer currently touring with Stevie Wonder–Shelea and more, displayed the versatility of genre inherent in Webb’s unparalleled songwriting style.  The tribute, hosted by Jimmy’s old friend, actor Michael Douglas–with proceeds going to the Alzheimer’s Foundation with regard to Jimmy’s friend and colleague Glen Campbell–also helped to usher in Webb’s new memoir, “The Cake and the Rain.” Ashley Campbell, Glen’s daughter made a touchingly memorable musical appearance while Toby Keith made a mighty one with his interpretation of “MacArthur Park.” We’re pleased to bring you the show’s complete song list, here:

LIZ CALLAWAY

The entire cast assembled “under the twilight canopy” for the big finale, with Marilyn & Billy leading their star compatriots to a soaring finish…

James Gavin

Finale in a “Beautiful Balloon” (photo courtesy James Gavin)

I mentioned to Marilyn how fitting it was that she and Billy virtually got to bookend the show with “Up-Up and Away.” The graceful lady thoughtfully reflected, “The night was so special for us, and so well-executed for Jimmy.”  I also noted that although they’ve toured all over the world since then, the twosome had last appeared at Carnegie Hall with The 5th Dimension in ’72…in fact, “If I Could Reach You” was the current hit Marilyn soloed with that night. Marilyn and Billy took it in like two kids listening to a favorite bedtime story–these are legacy artists who are non-jaded and define gracious.  I recalled, “I remember you guys were wearing those formal-looking black one-piece outfits with the silver embellishments.” Billy exclaimed, “That is correct! I remember those jumpsuits so well!”

JUMPSUIT

Here they are, The 5th Dimension in those “back in the day” black & silver jumpsuits!

I added, “When I co-wrote LaMonte’s (McLemore) memoir, he cited that particular sold-out concert at Carnegie Hall as the one the State Department took notice of. It essentially prompted them to make The 5th Dimension musical ambassadors, organizing your historic tour behind the ‘Iron Curtain.'” Marilyn responded with an endearingly wholesome, “Oh my gosh!” Billy capped things off with a heartfelt observation of the current night’s proceedings: “Robert, please tell the fans…to have all of us come together for Jimmy Webb, people like Johnny Rivers who really helped start it for us–The 5th Dimension as well as Jimmy…where we haven’t been in the same place at the same time for years, was truly astounding!”

CARNEGIE THREESOME DONE

L to R: Billy Davis, Jr., Robert-Allan Arno, Marilyn McCoo…embarking on a cozy chat at the Carnegie Hall after-party, City Winery, NYC

 Very special thanks to Steve Rosenblum, Sterling/Winters,

and Marilyn & Billy

Touring in their acclaimed autobiographical show, “Up-Up and Away–A Musical Fable,” for concert dates & more visit:  Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis, Jr. (Official) on Facebook, their website: http://www.mccoodavis.com or Twitter @mccoodavis

JIMMY MARBILL

Courtesy Jimmy Webb Facebook page

(Forever 5th Dimension by Robert-Allan Arno, a production of The Soul of The Voice, Ltd. copyright 2008-2017, intellectual property, all rights reserved. Photo credits:  Arno 5th McCoo/Davis Legacy Collection, Jimmy Webb Facebook page, James Gavin)

Happy 47th, Marilyn & Billy–Sweethearts of Pop n’ Soul

new marbill don' likeFOREVER 5th DIMENSION is so pleased to celebrate the 47th wedding anniversary of Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis, Jr., those forever fresh “sweethearts of Pop n’ Soul.”  Touring to the best reviews of their career with both sizzling concert evenings and special Broadway-like “Up-Up and Away–a musical fable” extravaganzas, these 7-time Grammy winners are timeless treasures in our lives.  How do we count the ways?  How about a retrospective featuring our recent favorite interview with the dynamic duo and links to some FOREVER 5th DIMENSION duet rarities from our popular YouTube channel…plus select fan greetings AND a gracious note from “MarBill,” themselves. Oh, and exclusive on-stage photos from Theater at Westbury this past June!  Join us, as we honor Marilyn and Billy…and all the love, harmony, and artistic excellence they stand for.  —Robert-Allan Arno

Singing in the Light CollageFave Q & A:
Among the many interviews we’ve done over the years, this is a true fan-fave. The engaging duo joined me here at FOREVER 5th a year ago to have some “coffee talk” as we laughed, cried and shared some pretty unique thoughts on the music, the magic and even had a mini Master Class. Read “Marilyn & Billy: Singing in the Light” at:  https://forever5thdimension.wordpress.com/2015/07/26/marilyn-billy-singing-in-the-light/

 

Take a MarBill Listen:

Researching“You Make Me Feel Brand New”–With over 135 THOUSAND views, this has become a bona fide YouTube hit, from the duo’s recent THE MANY FACES OF LOVE project.  We proudly note, our FOREVER 5th production of the tune was chosen to play on-screen in introducing Marilyn & Billy as they accepted the prestigious Gordon Parks award.  Link:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y5wCOLnn0F8

marilyn-mccoo“I Hope We Get to Love in Time, Live”–Ultra-rare, we remastered this from the beloved “Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis, Jr. Show.” The first African-American married couple to have their own variety series, this “live” version of the title tune from Marilyn & Billy’s first duet album is adored by fans, courtesy of JuneBug Productions.  And there’s a bonus…wait to the end and hear the show’s closing tune, “The Two of Us” (and try not to shed a sentimental tear!)  Link:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Cp2TTx4wo4

Soul Soul Soul“Soul and Inspiration, Un-vaulted”–As lead singers of The Original 5th Dimension, by ’74 producer Bones Howe wanted to open the album of the same title not only with a Marilyn & Billy duet, but with a retro feel. The actual disc featured a different mix and solely Billy doing the “recitation”…we got the OK to release from the vaults a taste of the original…more horns, and more so, Marilyn complimenting Billy, beautifully in her spoken word response.  Approved by “MarBill” themselves, we’ll call this a gem!  Link:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-vRlvNUPzY

marBill 2“Praise Ye The Lord”–From Billy’s Gospel project, re-issued as “The Love of God,” Marilyn is “special guest” on a song that the duo performed for Pope John Paul II.  This inspirational recording has become an Easter perennial for fans, yet is a faith-based song for all seasons.  Link:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oTRtdfjm4ng

RARE MARBILL ARMS“I’m So Glad I Found You”–Part Motown homage a la Marvin & Tammi, part Jazzy note-bending call & response with a tip of the hat to Marilyn’s roots with the Hi-Fi’s and Billy’s on the early eclectic club scene.  “I’m So Glad…” had previously only appeared as a flip-side to the single “I Hope We Get to Love In Time,” circa ’76 and resurfaced as a bonus to the expanded re-issue of Marilyn & Billy’s second duet album, “The Two of Us.”  By fan request, we produced this “goodie” for FOREVER 5th.  Link:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7q5iBOCsDg4

Here’s a montage…
of extraordinary on-stage shots…we were in the front row of Theater at Westbury to cheer on MarBill’s “Up-Up and Away–a musical fable” tour, something that should be destined for Broadway, itself.  My guest, “Pastor Martha” took these in June, we saved them just for you, the fans, for this anniversary edition, so enjoy!  And for our FOREVER 5th DIMENSION review of the show (“Marilyn & Billy Bring An Irresistible Musical Fable”), now also featured at www.mccoodavis.com, go here:  https://forever5thdimension.wordpress.com/2016/06/14/marilyn-billy-bring-an-irresistible-musical-fable/
Here’s an array of greetings from special fans, friends & media pros, not only celebrating MarBill’s anniversary but noting some favorite tunes, especially from their seminal first duet recording–the “I Hope We Get to Love in Time” album:

John Van Camp Congratulations Marilyn and Billy! We’ll give you a shout-out Tuesday morning on BossBossRadio.com on the morning show between 6 & 9 am, PDT.

Dale Kocik Happy Anniversary and thanks for sharing your talent and kindness with the world.  Love them all but if I absolutely had to pick a favorite it would be “Together Lets Find Love,”…and “Every Night.”  I had to throw a second favorite in there!

 William Q. Singleton (aka Bill Quinn, Metromedia Radio) Marilyn and Billy, congratulations on 47 years of wedded bliss, and thank you for your amazing gift of music to the world!

Susie Paige Sending Philly love your way

Susie Paige's photo.

Susan Aglio Happy Anniversary, Marilyn and Billy!! Blessings to both of you!
Hiromi Hirahata Congratulations to the most beautiful couple! I wish you two have a wonderful anniversary and many more happy years together.

Jim Handakas Your abiding respect and love for each other transcends your beautiful music. Thank you for sharing so freely with so many of us. It’s been a joyous ride.

Robyn Pippins Dear Marilyn & Billy, I want to wish you a Happy 47th Anniversary. I love your singing, but what I love most about you, is the love and respect you have for each other.  David Roberson Happy anniversary, Marilyn and Billy! Best wishes for many more.

Estes John Happy Anniversary to our beloved musical couple, still going strong after all of these years. I love almost every track on this (your first duet) album but my all time favorite is the hit and Grammy winner “You Don’t Have To Be A Star” and “My Love For You…”
Alain Baptiste My wife and I loved Marilyn and Billy as teens and of course still do, their book is on our “best shelf” and LaMonte McLemore‘s memoir, as well! The song NOTHING CAN STOP ME is too beautiful for words. Happy Anniversary and God bless from Mariette and Alain
Janice Berte Happy Anniversary Billy and Marilyn. You both are INCREDIBLE!
Deniserose Torres God has blessed us with your music, may He continue to bless you with love and happiness. Happy Anniversary.  My favorites (from your first duet album) – “Never Gonna Let You Go, ” “My Love for You (Will Always be the Same),” “You Can’t Change My Heart,” and of course, “You Don’t Have to be a Star.”
Marilyn+McCoo+Billy+Davis+Jr+Wildlife+WayStation+SIoD42FOyjOxJohn Howton Congrats to Marilyn & Billy. And thank you for your timeless music & for being such a “class act” always! As a matter of fact, I was hiking today & listening to my tunes & had my tunes on “shuffle” when all of a sudden “Black Patch” came on!! I must have replayed it no less than 5 times – in AWE of those GORGEOUS harmonies!!! Luv u two!
Paul Corley Congratulations on your 47th anniversary, Marilyn and Billy! From your first duet with The Versatiles, “Bye, Bye Baby,” to your current “Up, Up, and Away–a musical fable” tour, you have generously shared your love and talent with rest of the world. Thank you for your grace and style, and for the joy that you have given to your numerous fans.
Martha E. Vink Happy Anniversary, Marilyn and Billy! Your love and faith shine from you, and you inspire us all. May God continue to bless you with love and laughter, and bless us with YOU, for years and years to come!
Renee T Armstead Hi Marilyn and Billy: Happy 47th wedding anniversary! You are a wonderful example for the institution of marriage. May you share many more years together. Love to you both.
Andy Gard Beyond your obvious musical gifts, you two are a (well-matched) pair of quality human beings, and the comments on here speak to that. Wishing you many more years of love and happiness.
***
Dreams Come True
A Commentary by Robert-Allan Arno
AL-McCoo-Davis2-374x252
Marilyn and Billy have supported the FOREVER 5th DIMENSION blog since its inception–when they literally encouraged my developing the concept, 8 years ago…yes, it’s our anniversary, too!  They’ve not only read each edition with relish, watched the YouTubes and given kudos, but on a personal level, they’ve watched out for my “other career” in acting, and voice-acting.  They’ve tuned in to every appearance I’ve made on national TV as a Bible reader on THE SUNDAY MASS broadcast, and so much more.  And LaMonte McLemore and I can never, ever forget their special attendance at our Las Vegas book launch of Mac’s memoir, something I had the honor to co-write, FROM HOBO FLATS TO THE 5th DIMENSION.

MCCOO DAVIS ARNO BLACK WHITE

As a kid growing up on Long Island, learning “The Declaration (of Independence)” with the rest of you based on The 5th Dimension’s recording, Marilyn, Billy, Florence, LaMonte and the beloved Ron were cool n’ classy heroes that represented a brighter day.  They were proof positive that talent and a work ethic could create beauty and unity. They were the catalyst for dreams that could come true. And this blog and their loyalty and encouragement is in many ways, part of their earliest promise, made in the lyrics of Jimmy Webb’s “Up-Up and Away”: “If you hold my hand, we’ll chase your dream across the sky…for we can fly.”  And did we fly!!  Here’s to more, wherever that beautiful balloon takes us, in God’s time and eternal wisdom. 

Happy 47th Anniversary Marilyn & Billy, with much Love,

Robert

A Letter from Marilyn & Billy, July 2016

Dear Robert,

We want to thank you for all of the wonderful work you do on the Forever 5th Blog.  What a beautiful retrospective of our lives!  It’s so full of our memories and experiences, and you’ve laid it out in such a riveting way that certainly holds one’s attention.   There are unexpected moments, intermingled with special events that forever stand out in our minds.  You’ve found photos that we haven’t seen in years, many we’ve forgotten we’d taken, special times when the group enjoyed private laughs (and Lamonte’s jokes!) about what was happening at that very moment.  How you’ve found those photos and instinctively know their importance continues to amaze us.  The blog is a special revisiting of our lives, our appearances and interviews, our accomplishments.

Black White Columbus Day

Thank you again for the time, thought and energy you put into the chronicling of Florence’s, Lamonte’s, Ronald’s and our lives.  We don’t know how many times, or in how many ways, we can tell you what a blessing you are!  We continue to watch what you’re doing and the goals you’re striving toward so we can give you the encouragement and support you constantly give us.

With our love and appreciation always,

Billy & Marilyn

marwest9marwest3 COVERmarwest 1

Visit Marilyn & Billy at  www.mccoodavis.com or at their official Facebook page

Special thanks to Martha Vink, for photos from her exclusive collection

Many thanks to the fans for your comments & enthusiasm, and to Sterling/Winters–Kathy and  Steve–and to Randall, LaMonte and Florence, always.

(Forever 5th Dimension, a production of The Soul of the Voice, Ltd., all rights reserved, copyright 2008-16, Robert-Allan Arno)

Marilyn & Billy Bring An Irresistible Musical Fable

Unforgettable two Gen Bob Photog

Review–Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis, Jr. in “Up, Up and Away, a Musical Fable,” Theater at Westbury, Long Island, June 9, 2016

by Robert-Allan Arno

This is the type of “review” which can be deemed as subjective and objective.  Not only am I the biographer of The Original 5th Dimension and its founder, LaMonte McLemore, but the Theater at Westbury, once known as Westbury Music Fair, was sacred home for the many times I had seen the original quintet perform while I grew up on Long Island. And so as the evening’s overture played, I sighed, “Now, this is full-circle!” then wondered quickly, “Has the beautiful balloon finally landed?” About the latter, no possible way.  If anything, it soars higher than ever. Marilyn McCoo remains as gorgeous as her legendary octaves do; Billy Davis, Jr. is our true Gentleman of Soul.  Their Broadway-like presentation, “Up, Up and Away, A Musical Fable” (which I keep accidentally calling “a musical fantasy!”) is a revelation even for someone like myself.  And by the way, “fantasy” fits this bill–you have to keep pinching yourself that what you’re seeing and hearing is a reality. That McCoo-Davis individually collective sound, the moves, the back-up singers, the top-flight band (led by Darrell Alston) are all so exquisitely pristine yet astute that we get to see the movies of our minds…live!  unforgettable nine gen bob

From the first strains of their signature “Up-Up and Away” to the last of “Let the Sunshine In” and its “Aquarius” mash-up mate, we’re taken on one heart-tugging, joyful and exhilarating ride.  Marilyn and Billy commence with a “Where or When” sampler through everything from Billy’s Blues roots, Marilyn’s torch inclinations, “Solid Gold” days, “Showboat” and “Dreamgirls,” in a way that’s seamlessly autobiographical.  It’s clear that both McCoo and Davis were virtual child prodigies who made their dreams including Broadway stints and TV series, come true.  “You Don’t Have to be a Star,” baby, but MarBill make us feel like special revelers invited to their party as they keep intensifying their show, bringing us in with their scripted and seemingly off-the-cuff patter.  The hits just keep coming, and many in the audience were singing along, hooting n’ hollering, and getting down with “Stoned Soul/Sweet Blindness” unadulterated fun, “Last Night I Didn’t Get to Sleep” smooth grooves, “Wedding Bell Blues” flirty moves, and “Save the Country” verve.

Unforgettable three Gen Bob

How can Marilyn’s “Never My Love” surpass that famed moment from “The 5th Dimension–Live” album?  She made it happen and it stopped the show with a protracted standing O.  How can Billy’s “The Worst that Could Happen” redefine what was already so full-throttle?  He sure did, stopping the show again with another grand ovation. And then there’s “MacArthur Park.” As we immediately recall the beloved Ron Townson’s in-concert lead, Billy graciously does so too, singing in his deeper tones, diction emphatic…we behold the measure of a man who gives homage by inhabiting a song, finding its richest subtext.  Of course, so does La McCoo who offers the Jimmy Webb masterpiece her intricately syncopated back-ups in solidarity, along with three talented singers (Cydney Davis, Cynthia Bass and choreographer as well, Andre Carthen).  Breathtaking is their take on the cake…in the rain, as a “fade to black” gives us a chance to catch our breath during intermission.

Unforgettable Seven Gen Bob

A Beatles medley opens the second act with so many twists and turns to “musically stretch out,” I will leave it as a surprise when you get to see this production.  And speaking of “The Fab 4,” did you know The 5th Dimension was sometimes known as “The Black Beatles?”  According to group founder McLemore, “Like the Beatles, all our fans–regardless of race–knew both the first and last names of each of the original members of The 5th Dimension.”  Furthermore, this McCoo-Davis 2016 retrospective on “The Fab 5,” in no way diminishes Ms. LaRue and The current 5th Dimension, for Florence as well as LaMonte and Ron are mentioned warmly and seen on-screen via select photos, throughout the show.  Indeed, The 5th Dimension remains family. It should be noted that Ms. McCoo, Mr. Davis and their seminal quintet became leading pop cultural figures by example. As such, their harmonious sound and image united diverse people during the turbulent times of the late ’60’s and early ’70’s.  Just like The Mills Brothers, Lena Horne, Nat King Cole and Johnny Mathis before them, they did it with class yet were in a class by themselves.  And when The 5th had to make a stand-out political point, they did it with the same spirit of finesse we always expected. Case in point, The Independence Medley from the historic “Portrait” album. Guess what?  Marilyn and Billy re-purpose it today, in a way that gives thought to our country’s still-troubling Civil Rights condition and revisits their own recorded glory.

Marilyn Unforgettable

Ms. McCoo sings “Blackbird” (photo courtesy Miguel de Leon)

When Ms. McCoo steps forward to emote “Blackbird,” it seems no longer part of the aforementioned Beatles medley, in fact, once she concludes, it becomes indelible as a prelude to the “on the record” Independence Medley.  Moreover, Marilyn makes “Blackbird” a soulmate to Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit.”  Just thinking of McCoo’s watershed interpretation brings tears as it did to many in attendance.  Then there’s the familiar “The Declaration,” a tune so many school children utilized to learn the “We hold these truths…that all men are created equal” words to such a revolutionary document.  While unfolding, I began experiencing it as foreshadowing Broadway’s current hit “Hamilton”–yes, it’s 5th scholarship at its most hip, as well as the perfect lead-in to Billy’s tour-de-force: “A Change is Gonna Come.” 

Unforgettable 4 Gen Bob

Here Davis takes us to church as we are powerfully yet poignantly reminded of struggles, losses, gains and the renewing promise of eternal hope.  We soon thank God for “People Gotta Be Free” as we clap with Marilyn, Billy and singers in cathartic jubilation…what artistic transference! 

Unforgettable Six Gen BobNext, Marilyn’s solo signature, “One Less Bell to Answer” becomes a diva aria of Pop-Jazz that raises the roof as only an angel of song can.  By the show’s conclusion, we see “The Way We Were” with newfound gratitude, for Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis, Jr.–soon to celebrate a 47th wedding anniversary–have brought us our “fountain of youth” while sharing their very own, timeless musical fable.

WESTBURY Davis, Arno, McCoo

Billy Davis, Jr., Robert-Allan Arno, Marilyn McCoo

Visit http://www.mccoodavis.com or the Official Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis, Jr. page on FB

Primary Photo Credit and Very Special Thanks to: (C) 2016 Bob Felderman, General Bob Photography

Please “Like” General Bob Photography on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/GeneralBobPhotography/ or visit Bob’s website: http://www.GeneralBobPhotography.com

“Marilyn & Billy…an Irresistible Musical Fable,” copyright 2016 by Robert-Allan Arno for FOREVER 5th DIMENSION, a production of The Soul of the Voice, Ltd.

 

What Comes From Our Hearts: Celebrating Billy Davis Jr.’s Birthday

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In his memoir, “From Hobo Flats to The 5th Dimension,” founder of The 5th Dimension and life-long friend, LaMonte McLemore earmarks Billy Davis, Jr.’s interpretation of Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come” as incomparable, bringing a tear to his eye. As biographer of both The original 5th and “Mac,” I was so proud to have it released (in medley with “People Gotta Be Free”) as a rarity selection on the current CD chart-topper, “Playlist: The Very Best of The 5th Dimension” on Sony-Legacy. Florence LaRue confided to a recent audience at her solo cabaret show, “My all-time favorite song by The 5th Dimension is ‘Misty Roses!’” That’s Billy’s “sweet-soul” side, way back-in-the-day from the very first “Up-Up and Away” album. Compare this to his “flip side,” as both the bluesy “When Something is Wrong with My Baby” and the gritty “Steppin’ In” stop the show “live in person,” and on the exemplary Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis Jr.’s latest double volume Live CD!

Dubbed one of our greatest Soul singers by the renown of Maurice White (Earth, Wind and Fire), Eddie Levert (The O’Jays) and Jimmy “Up-Up and Away” Webb, Billy noted recently to Michael Feinstein on his “Song Travels” radio show, “Nat King Cole was a major early inspiration.” In a mini “Master Class” Marilyn & Billy provided at our Blog, FOREVER 5th DIMENSION, Billy’s reminder to artists was to “tell the story…and let your notes highlight the feeling.” “’What comes from the heart, goes to the heart’ is my husband’s motto,” smiled Marilyn.  No wonder Ashford & Simpson picked up on this “heartfelt” quality in The 5th’s fan favorite version of their sizzling composition, “California Soul,” a group song, like “Ashes to Ashes” that is rather Billy-driven. Oh, and the socially-conscious “Ashes” is one of Billy’s personal faves, he shared on the radio a few years back!

REWOUND Radio’s Bob Radil in talking with me about the legacy of The 5th, cited Billy’s improv on “Let the Sunshine In” as a watershed moment in recording history. I responded, “Billy’s call to ‘Sing along with The 5th Dimension’ was irresistible…how could the nation not!” Marilyn continued in our “class,” noting her hubby’s directorial chops, too, “Billy guided my phrasing on ‘One Less Bell,’ in fact, he helped all the members with their solos.”

On Gospel tunes like “The Love of God,” from Billy’s project with Rev. James Cleveland and re-issued, “Billy has made women swoon at our church appearances,” observes Marilyn with a sympathetic giggle. “That’s not me, it’s God working through me,” Billy retorts humbly, and maybe most importantly of all. Famed 5th producer Bones Howe tells me, “On ‘The Magic Garden’ album alone, if you juxtapose ‘Requiem: 820 Latham’ (one of Marilyn’s personal faves) with ‘The Worst That Could Happen’ with ‘Summer’s Daughter’ (the latter, one of Bones’ sentimental likes), you’ll hear all the ‘dimensions’ of Billy.” Indeed, there are so many dimensions, so many more songs with that “Billy Davis, Jr. touch”–his stamp of artistic excellence.

It’s become a yearly tradition to tell us your favorite “Billy tune” while “speaking with your heart” to wish him a Happy Birthday. However, this year for 2015, we present a twist with the following question: 

If and when Marilyn & Billy record their next CD of duets with select solos, which all-time classic Soul, Blues, Gospel or American Pop Standard tune would you love Billy to record…or perhaps what previously recorded “Billy solo” would you like him to re-visit? 

We’ll send all your “trains of thought” and greetings over to “Sir Davis” and his proud wife of nearly 46 years, the lovely Ms. McCoo, on his special morning of June 26th…our cherished and respected “Gentleman of Soul.”  —Robert-Allan Arno

(copyright 2014, 15, The Soul of the Voice, Ltd.)

Here are our 2015  fan “results”–

    • Susan Aglio I would love for Billy to re-record my favorite, “The Singer!” Happy Birthday, Billy! I hope to see you and Marilyn very soon!
    • David Pendleton Without question the best Billy solo is “The Worst That Could Happen!”  I confess he’s inspired me to try and record it!  Happy birthday to a musical hero.
    • Elston Harry Give me a minute!!!
    • Alain Baptiste Robert-Allan, Mariette and I would want Mr. Davis to record his version of the Louis Armstrong perennial WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD, we think he’d give it a tender new, excuse the pun, dimension! Happy Birthday and God bless a great man.
    • Andy Gard How about Frank Sinatra’s “That’s Life”? That has a bluesy feel that Billy could knock out of the park (to borrow a baseball metaphor from Lamonte & you, Robert). BTW, happy birthday, Mr. D!
    • Robert-Allan Arno “That’s Life”…that’s ingenious! Thanks Andy!!
    • Deniserose Torres To re-visit, already my favorite…”Let it Be Me”… Happy birthday Billy..wishing you a wonderful day..
    • Loretta Sorensen That was a difficult task but I would enjoy Billy performing “Fields of Gold” by Sting. It’s so pure and pretty, sort of like Billy’s “Misty Roses,” one of my favorites. Happy Birthday Billy and many more to come!
    • Robert-Allan Arno Thanks Deniserose, Loretta and everyone…this thread is becoming fascinating…perfect for Billy’s day!
    • Susie Paige I would love to hear Billy sing “His Eye is On the Sparrow”. Birthday cake
    • William Q. Singleton (aka Bill Quinn/METROMEDIA RADIO) Robert, I’d really love to hear them sing “Waters of March!” It’s such a sublime song and one of Jobim’s best. It’s probably a long shot, but a complete project of American Pop Standards would really be a treat and give fans an opportunity to see their amazing range and talents as singers.
    • Antonio Pereira Happy Birthday Billy! How’s about you and Marilyn recording your own version of ‘Where Is The Love’?
    • Renee T Armstead Happy Birthday Billy!! It was SO great to see you and Marilyn this past Saturday. The show was the best and Barbara and I were thrilled to be blessed with a front row seat!! As you may remember, my favorite “Billy” tune is “A Change is Gonna Come.”  If and when you and Marilyn record a new CD of duets with select solos, I think you would do a superb job of “Hold On, I’m Coming”, the oldie by Sam and Dave. Meanwhile, God bless you both. Enjoy your birthday Soul Man!

      Renee T Armstead's photo.
    • Douglas C. Charles Billy – Happy Birthday to one awesome singer!! You are so loved and admired. I cherish my recordings of you and the group as well as the wonderful memories of seeing you/meeting you in person. I hope this birthday is your best ever. I wish you love, joy and many happy returns.
    • Estes John Happy Birthday Billy. An updated version of THE SINGER would be great to hear.
    • Paul Corley It would be great to hear a remake of “Feelin’ Alright” or “Half Moon.” Have a Happy Birthday, Billy, and thank you for sharing your gift with the world.
    • Bob Radil Antonio mentioned “Where Is The Love.”  A duet I was thinking of is “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'” but oops, they’re both negative and duets! Robert-Allan mentioned a Billy *solo.* First song to come to mind, “When A Man Loves A Woman.” Could that work? This may be a bit corny but it could be preceded by Marilyn doing “Which Way You Going Billy.”
    • Robert-Allan Arno Bob, you are onto something “psychic,” lol…MarBill performed “Where is the Love” on TV back in the day (“The Sonny and Cher Show”) and made it sound quite positive, lol…and Billy did record “When a Man…” on the MarBill CD done for their 40th anniversary, “The Many Faces of Love.”
    • Robert-Allan Arno I will add my, hopefully more than 2 cents, lol. “A Change is Gonna Come, ” and “Leave a Little Room” are my two fave Billy recorded solos, I’m wondering if he could work them into a new medley. More concretely, he has mentioned Nat King Cole as an early influence. I’d like to hear Billy record “Nature Boy,” but not as a ballad or even with a Jazz vibe, but against a Blues arrangement…Billy’s sense of pathos as well as musicality while talking about “the greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return” would be incomparable.
    • Martha E. Vink Happy Birthday to Billy! I’d love to hear him do some old Gospel tunes. A whole album full!
    • Brian Medoro I want to hear a whole album of Rock n Roll, Soul, Blues from Billy. Whatever he likes, it would be great.  Some of my older favorites are I’ve Got A Feeling, Don’t Stop For Nothin’, Requiem 820, I Just Want To Be Your Friend…Amazing! There’s no one like you. Have a fantastic day.!
    • Jeffrey Graham Happy Birthday blessings to one of our greatest musical treasures! I would love to hear Billy’s take on the Bill Withers/Grover Washington classic, “Just The Two Of Us!”
    • Kenneth Green Happy Birthday, Mr. Davis! Summer’s Daughter is my favorite. I’d like to see you tackle that again.
      Blake Morant Sorry I’ve been out of the loop a bit, Robert-Allan Arno. Business travel wreaks havoc. I must, however, add my personal, albeit belated, tribute to the great Billy Davis, Jr. His impassioned, “A Change Is Gonna Come,” remains a classic and very relevant today. If I were privileged enough to make a request, I would ask him to record Michael Bolton’s hit, “That’s What Love Is All About.” Billy’s soulful renderings would give this song all new poignancy. It also captures the essence of his inspirational relationship with the equally great, Marilyn McCoo.
      And from LaMonte McLemore’s Facebook Page:
      Tomorrow, June 26 is the birthday of one of our greatest Soul singers, my musical colleague, and a forever friend, Mr. Billy Davis, Jr. Enjoy this salute at the FOREVER 5th DIMENSION blog, by Robert-Allan Arno. And all greetings you post here for Billy will be sent on over to him! A birthday “right on,” my brother, and God bless you always! –LaMonte
    • Gary Mallitz Judi and I wish you a wonderful birthday.
    • Little Anthony Gourdine Happy Birthday Billy!!
      Unlike · Reply · 2 · 9 hrs
    • Joan Truelove Happy Birthday Billy. Enjoy your Day.
    • Mable Buckner Billy, Happy Birthday!! Jimmy “Fashion Plate” Payton and I hope you have a fantastic birthday! We hope to see you and Marilyn soon!
    • Judy Millet Have a beautiful birthday Billy!Birthday cake
Nancie Roman Happy Birthday Billy. Wishing you many, many more. I hope you enjoy your special day! Birthday cake

Manuel Esparza Happy Birthday Billy from all of us at:
Chicano-magazine.com
Here are greetings from special fans & friends, 2014: 

Renee T Armstead: I can’t believe LaMonte feels the same as I do about “A Change is Gonna Come.” It brings tears to my eyes too! That is my favorite Billy song! Also, I’ve always loved the fact that Billy was named the Sunny Dimension when the group was together.  I have truly loved getting to know him and Marilyn all through these years. Happy Birthday!

Susie Paige: Have a happy birthday, Billy! “Somebody Warm Like Me” is one of my personal favorites. Thanks for all the great music!…Gabriel Pellegrino:  Billy is the Man! May God bless you with many more years!… Elston Harry: Billy, Happy Birthday, I will celebrate you!…Douglas C. Charles: Billy, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting you a few times over the years & you have always been so gracious.  “Steppin In” has become a new favorite of mine. I hope before I die to hear you sing “Leave A Little Room.” Been enjoying your solos since the first album (“Which Way to Nowhere”).  God Bless & “Be Good” as your autographs used to say…Dale Kocik: So many favorites–“Feelin Alright, Every Night, Those Were The Days, Guess Who.” Thanks so much for all of the great music, Happy Birthday Bily!…Estes John: Happy Birthday Billy. My all-time personal fave Billy-lead/solo song has always been BROKEN WING BIRD followed by IT’LL NEVER BE THE SAME AGAIN…Loretta Sorensen: Trying to choose just one favorite Billy Davis Jr. song is like trying to eat just one potato chip! Since I don’t stop at one chip, my favorites are Let It Be Me, Misty Roses, A Change Is Gonna Come, Requiem: 820 Latham. Happiest of Birthday’s dear Billy and thank you for always being so kind to me…Isis LaShawn Hardy:I enjoyed reading the Forever 5Th article. My top 5 favorite Billy led songs are– My Song, Too Poor to Die, It’ll Never be the Same Again, Ashes to Ashes, and Requiem: 820 Latham. But I must give props to Billy’s lead on Feelin’ Alright. It is my FAVORITE version of the song. It grooves!

Alain Baptiste: We thought about this, Robert-Allan. Billy has been a light in our lives for many years now. His in a split second recognizable sound, the dedication to everything he does, is something we have come to expect but never take for granted. With pride, we love him and Marilyn more than we can say. Adding, “Let It Be Me” is the bomb! Mariette and Alain Baptiste…

A. Scott Galloway: Happy Birthday Billy! To this day I cherish a conversation I had with Marilyn at Warner Bros. for her “The Me Nobody Knows” CD where she told me her favorite performance of yous was “Requiem: 820 Latham,” reciting some of Jimmy Webb’s vivid lyrics to me like poetry. I went home, pulled my “The Magic Garden” album out and it brought tears to my eyes. I’ve loved you and “The 5th” – my 1st favorite group – since I was 4 and my family drove from Ann Arbor to Rialto with the “Up-Up And Away” LP as our road soundtrack. Wishing you many happy returns and Much Love Always.
 


Something for Everyone– A Picnic of “Champagne Soul” Delights!

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Something for everyone!  It’s an early summer picnic of “Champagne Soul” delights with a wealth of new & recent releases for fans (from steadfast to our young YouTube crowd!) of The 5th Dimension and Marilyn & Billy.  Here are links for easy ordering at low prices!

–New!  “Playlist: The Very Best of The 5th Dimension” on Sony Legacy.  Fresh liners by Robert-Allan Arno go song-by-song as hits & select rarities unfold. 14 gems chosen by Marilyn & Billy, Florence and LaMonte and sequenced by Arno, gorgeously re-mastered for ‘14!

Includes: “California Soul,” “Stoned Soul Picnic,” “Blown’ Away,” “Never My Love” (Mono single), “A Change is Gonna Come/People Gotta Be Free” (Mono single), “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In” (Stereo radio mix).

Available at Amazon, CD Universe and WalMart–Links:  http://www.walmart.com/ip/36723477

http://www.cduniverse.com/productinfo.asp?pid=9204084

http://www.amazon.com/Playlist-Very-Best-Fifth-Dimension/dp/B00JM5C9CQ/ref=sr_1_1?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1402598453&sr=1-1&keywords=playlist+5th+dimension

Also, see our special “Behind the Scenes Scoop” on Playlist at “Recent Entries”

–Finally!  EARTHBOUND (re-mastered) on Real Gone Music CD’s.  The “swan song” album by the original quintet, Jimmy Webb produces The 5th Dimension, once again. Marilyn & Billy weigh in via liners with their thoughts today on this emotional and harmoniously hip project of ‘75.

Includes “Magic In My Life,” “Walk Your Feet in the Sunshine,” “When Did I Lose Your Love,” “Speaking with My Heart,” “Moonlight Mile.”

Link:  http://realgonemusic.enstore.com/item/the-5th-dimension-cd

SOLID GOLD by Marilyn McCoo is an ‘80’s reissue on Real Gone.  It features fan faves “Heart Stop Beating In Time,” “One on One,” ‘Always on My Mind,” an unreleased tune gets un-vaulted and MarBill’s “I Believe in You and Me” is still so breathtaking.

Link:  http://realgonemusic.enstore.com/item/marilyn-mccoo-solid-gold-cd

Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis, Jr. LIVE is a self-produced 2 volume set that astoundingly reps exactly what it’s like to attend a current, jam-packed musical show of the Grammy-winning dynamic duo.  5 Stars n’ Sizzling!

Includes:  “You Don’t Have to be a Star,” “Easy Way Out/Need You Now,” “Gotta Get You Into My Life,” “Up-Up and Away,” “One Less Bell,” “When Something is Wrong with my Baby,” “You Are So Beautiful.”

See the special review by Arno on CD Baby:  http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/marilynmccoobillydavisjr

–Robert-Allan Arno, Biographer, The original 5th Dimension/LaMonte McLemore