A Forever 5th Dimension Exclusive by Robert-Allan Arno
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!
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.
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). You 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
Back 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:
The entire cast assembled “under the twilight canopy” for the big finale, with Marilyn & Billy leading their star compatriots to a soaring finish…
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!”
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!”
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
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)